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The aging population and the size of the welfare state: Is there a puzzle?

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  • Shelton, Cameron A.
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    Abstract

    Razin, Sadka, and Swagel [Razin, Asaf, Efraim Sadka, and Phillip Swagel (2002) "The Aging Population and the Size of the Welfare State" The Journal of Political Economy, vol. 110, no. 4, pp. 900-918.] unveil a puzzling fact: the welfare state appears to be shrinking even as the dependency ratio rises. While they formulate an elegant political economy model to explain the coexistence of an aging population and declining transfers, the resolution of the puzzle turns out to be much simpler. Labor tax rates and per capita transfers are negatively correlated with the dependency ratio in advanced economies only because this measure includes children as well as retirees. Both labor tax rates and per capita transfers in advanced economies are, in fact, historically positively correlated with the ratio of retirees to the working-age population and negatively correlated with the ratio of children to the working-age population. Increasing the number of retirees shifts preferences toward higher taxes and transfers by increasing the fraction of the population that receives transfers. In contrast, workers with more children prefer to spend more of their lifetime income while raising dependents, so they prefer smaller public pension systems. These results suggest that fiscal leakage from workers to retirees is not required to explain the broad trends in the transfer policies of advanced economies.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

    Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 3-4 (April)
    Pages: 647-651

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:3-4:p:647-651

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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    Cited by:
    1. Facchini, Francois, 2014. "The determinants of public spending: a survey in a methodological perspective," MPRA Paper 53006, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Benarroch, Michael & Pandey, Manish, 2012. "The relationship between trade openness and government size: Does disaggregating government expenditure matter?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 239-252.
    3. Hollanders, D.A. & Koster, F., 2012. "The Graying of the Median Voter," Discussion Paper 2012-061, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    4. Tim Krieger & Jens Ruhose, 2013. "Honey, I shrunk the kids’ benefits—revisiting intergenerational conflict in OECD countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 157(1), pages 115-143, October.
    5. Ulrich Thiessen & Konstantin A. Kholodilin & Boriss Siliverstovs, 2008. "Does Aging Influence Sectoral Employment Shares? Evidence from Panel Datak," KOF Working papers 08-214, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    6. Siliverstovs, Boriss & Kholodilin, Konstantin A. & Thiessen, Ulrich, 2011. "Does aging influence structural change? Evidence from panel data," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 244-260, June.
    7. Amélie Lecocq & Marcelin Joanis, 2013. "Au-delà des certitudes : Pouvoir gris, obésité et autres dimensions incertaines de l’impact budgétaire du vieillissement," Cahiers de recherche 13-08, Departement d'Economique de la Faculte d'administration à l'Universite de Sherbrooke.

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