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Positive Arithmetic of the Welfare State

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  • Conde-Ruiz, José Ignacio
  • Galasso, Vincenzo

Abstract

Why does the largest US welfare programme select its recipients by their age, rather than by their earnings or wealth? In a dynamic efficient overlapping generation economy with earnings heterogeneity, we analyze a welfare system composed of a within-cohort redistribution scheme and an unfunded social security system. The programme's size is determined in a bidimensional majoritarian election. For enough income inequality and elderly in the population, both welfare programs are supported as a structure-induced political equilibrium of a voting game played by successive generation of voters. Social security is sustained by a voting coalition of retirees and low-income young, intragenerational redistribution by low-income young. Two features are crucial: the retirees' political power, deriving from their homogeneous voting, and the intragenerational redistribution component of the social security. Therefore, to assess how changes in inequality affect the welfare state, the income distribution should be decomposed by age groups.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 2202.

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Date of creation: Aug 1999
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:2202

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Keywords: Income Equality; Social Security; Structure-Induced Equilibrium;

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  1. John Hassler & José V. Rodríguez Mora & Kjetil Storesletten & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2003. "The Survival of the Welfare State," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 87-112, March.
  2. Thomas F. Cooley & Jorge Soares, 1999. "A Positive Theory of Social Security Based on Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 135-160, February.
  3. Grossman, G.M. & Helpman, E., 1996. "Intergenerational Redistribution with Short-Lived Governments," Papers 178, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
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  10. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Vincenzo Galasso, 2003. "Early Retirement," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(1), pages 12-36, January.
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  15. Vincenzo Galasso, 1999. "The US Social Security System: What Does Political Sustainability Imply?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 698-730, July.
  16. Javier Díaz-Giménez & Vincenzo Quadrini & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 1997. "Dimensions of inequality: facts on the U.S. distributions of earnings, income, and wealth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-21.
  17. Conde-Ruiz, J. Ignacio & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2004. "The macroeconomics of early retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1849-1869, August.
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  19. Romer, Thomas, 1975. "Individual welfare, majority voting, and the properties of a linear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 163-185, February.
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