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Generational Accounts - A Meaningful Alternative to Deficit Accounting

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  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Abstract

This paper presents a set of generational accounts (GAS) that can be used to assess the fiscal burden current generations are placing on future generations. The GAS indicate the net present value amount that current and future generations are projected to pay to the government now and in the future. The generational accounting system represents an alternative to using the federal budget deficit to gauge intergenerational policy. From a theoretical perspective, the measured deficit need bear no relationship to the underlying intergenerational stance of fiscal policy. Within the range of reasonable growth and interest rate assumptions the difference between age zero and future generations in GAS ranges from 17 to 24 percent. This means that if the fiscal burden on current generations is not increased relative to that projected from current policy (ignoring the just enacted federal budget deal) and if future generations are treated equally (except for an adjustment for growth) the fiscal burden facing all future generations over their lifetimes will be 17 to 24 percent larger than that facing newborns in 1989. The just enacted budget will, if it sticks, significantly reduce the fiscal burden on future generations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3589.

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Date of creation: Jan 1991
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Publication status: published as Auerbach, Alan J., Jagadeesh Gokhale and Laurence J. Kotlikoff. "Generational Accounting: A Meaningful Way To Evaluate Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 1994, v8(1), 73-94.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3589

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  1. Wilcox, David W, 1989. "The Sustainability of Government Deficits: Implications of the Present-Value Borrowing Constraint," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 21(3), pages 291-306, August.
  2. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-26, Sept./Oct.
  3. James D. Hamilton & Marjorie A. Flavin, 1985. "On the Limitations of Government Borrowing: A Framework for Empirical Testing," NBER Working Papers 1632, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. David A. Wise, 1989. "The Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise89-1, June.
  5. Alan J. Auerbach & James R. Hines Jr., 1986. "Anticipated Tax Changes and the Timing of Investment," NBER Working Papers 1886, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Eisner, Robert & Pieper, Paul J, 1986. "A New View of the Federal Debt and Budget Deficits: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1156-57, December.
  7. Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1984. "Taxation and Savings: A Neoclassical Perspective," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 1576-1629, December.
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