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Social Security and Inequality over the Life Cycle

In: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform

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  • Angus S. Deaton
  • Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas
  • Christina Paxson

Abstract

This paper examines the consequences of social security reform for the inequality of consumption across individuals. The idea is that inequality is at least in part the result of individual risk in earnings or asset returns, the effects of which accumulate over time to increase inequality within groups of people as they age. Institutions such as social security, that share risk across individuals, will moderate the transmission of individual risk into inequality. We examine how different social security systems, with different degrees of risk sharing, affect consumption inequality. We do so within the framework of the permanent income hypothesis, and also using richer models of consumption that incorporate precautionary saving motives and borrowing restrictions. Our results indicate that systems in which there is less sharing of earnings risk such as systems of individual accounts produce higher consumption inequality both before and after retirement. However, differences across individuals in the rate of return on assets (including social security assets held in individual accounts) produce only modest additional effects on inequality.

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Bibliographic Info

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This chapter was published in:

  • Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld02-1, May.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 9750.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:9750

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    References

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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
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    1. James M. Poterba & David A. Wise, 1996. "Individual Financial Decisions in Retirement Saving Plans and The Provision of Resources for Retirement," NBER Working Papers 5762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:
    1. Falilou Fall, 2004. "Pension reform, assets returns and wealth distribution," Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques v04033, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
    2. Jacques Le Cacheux & Vincent Touzé, 2002. "Les modèles d'équilibre général calculable à générations imbriquées. Enjeux, méthodes et résultats," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 80(1), pages 87-113.
    3. Jess Benhabib & Alberto Bisin, 2006. "The distribution of wealth and redistributive policies," 2006 Meeting Papers 368, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Juan F. Jimeno & Juan A. Rojas & Sergio Puente, 2006. "Modeling the impact of aging on social security expenditures," Banco de Espa�a Occasional Papers 0601, Banco de Espa�a.
    5. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/2091 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L, 2004. "The Cross-Sectional Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States," CEPR Discussion Papers 4296, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Mark Huggett, 2003. "Human Capital and Earnings Distribution Dynamics," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-10, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    8. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2000. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Thomas L. Hungerford, 2006. "The role of earnings and financial risk in distributional analyses of Social Security reform measures," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(2), pages 417-438.

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