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The Economics of Social Security Reform

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  • Peter Diamond

Abstract

Economic analysis centers on three questions whether to have a mixed defined contribution (DC)/defined benefit (DB) plan and how to invest the funding. The paper compares a DB funded plan with a funded DC plan without any individual choice. The paper then considers individu choice about benefits, with particular attention to widows. Portfolio choice is considered for a central fund and in individual accounts, particularly the costs of implementation, as are the implications of greater funding. The implications for the labor market are examined. The major economic issues are not controversial. More funding involves higher taxes (or lower benefits) in the near-term in order to have lower taxes (or higher benefits) in the long run. More funding can reduce the frequency of needed adjustments to Social Security and can increase national savings. These economic effects are similar with or without individual accounts, although the politics will differ. The financial advantage of a diversified portfolio applies to a central fund, whether for a DC or a DB. Indeed, a DB that adjusts well handles risk better than a DC. Economically, the case for diversification is clear, but political questions arise about investing well and avoiding improper interference in corporate governance. Individual accounts respond to political concerns and allow diversity in individual portfolios but add to administrative costs and raise questions about the quality of individual investment decisions. They also raise the political question of maintaining redistribution. It is unclear whether individual accounts would make the labor market more or less efficient. My bottom line is that a well-run DB system is economically more efficient than a mixed DC/DB system. The real issue then becomes how well the US government could run either system.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6719.

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Date of creation: Sep 1998
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Publication status: published as Arnold, R. D., M. J. Graetz and A. H. Munnell (eds.) Framing the Social Security Debate: Values, Politics, and Economics, National Academy of Social Insurance. Brookings Institution Press, 1998.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6719

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  1. John Geanakoplos & Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2000. "Social Security Money's Worth," NBER Working Papers 6722, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Valdes-Prieto, Salvador, 1994. "Administrative charges in pensions in Chile, Malaysia, Zambia, and the United States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1372, The World Bank.
  3. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, 1997. "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 97-12, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
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  8. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1998. "Social security reform in Latin America," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 15-18.
  9. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1997. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," NBER Working Papers 6002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Richard Thaler, 1985. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 4(3), pages 199-214.
  11. Richard V. Burkhauser & Timothy M. Smeeding, 1994. "Social Security Reform: A Budget Neutral Approach to Reducing Older Women's Disproportional Risk of Poverty," Center for Policy Research Policy Briefs 2, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  12. Courtney Coile & Peter Diamond & Jonathan Gruber & Alain Jousten, 1999. "Delays in Claiming Social Security Benefits," NBER Working Papers 7318, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Sebastian Edwards, 1996. "The Chilean Pension Reform: A Pioneering Program," NBER Working Papers 5811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1997. "The Economics of Prefunding Social Security and Medicare Benefits," NBER Working Papers 6055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. Friedman, Benjamin M & Warshawsky, Mark J, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-54, February.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Eisen, Roland, 2000. "(Partial) privatization social security: The Chilean model - a lesson to follow?," CFS Working Paper Series 2000/13, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  2. Robert Gillingham & Daniel Kanda, 2001. "Pension Reform in India," IMF Working Papers 01/125, International Monetary Fund.
  3. Franz R. Hahn, 2003. "Fully-Funded Public Old Age Pension Programs – Stranger Than Paradise?," WIFO Working Papers 203, WIFO.
  4. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1999. "Social security in theory and practice (I): Facts and political theories," Economics Working Papers 384, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  5. D'Amato, Marcello & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2002. "Aggregate Risk, Political Constraints and Social Security Design," CEPR Discussion Papers 3330, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Alan Siu, 2002. "Hong Kong's Mandatory Provident Fund," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 22(2), pages 317-332, Fall.
  7. Gunther Tichy, 2006. "Demografie-Prognoseschwäche, Arbeitsmarkt und Pensionsfinanzierung," Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft - WuG, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik, vol. 32(2), pages 149-166.
  8. Alessandra Casarico & Carlo Devillanova, 2003. "Capital-skill Complementarity and the Redistributive Effects of Social Security Reform," CESifo Working Paper Series 1038, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova, 1998. "Individual Risk and Intergenerational Risk Sharing in an Investment-Based Social Security Program," NBER Working Papers 6839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Peter A. Diamond, 2000. "Administrative Costs and Equilibrium Charges with Individual Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 137-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Alvaro Forteza, 2003. "Seguridad social y competencia política," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0403, Department of Economics - dECON.
  12. Christopher Niggle, 2003. "Globalization, Neoliberalism and the attack on social security," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(1), pages 51-71.
  13. Luisa Fuster & Ayse Imrohoroglu & Selahattin Imrohoroglu, 2005. "Personal Security Accounts and Mandatory Annuitization in a Dynastic Framework," CESifo Working Paper Series 1405, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 1999. "Social security in theory and practice (II): Efficiency theories, narrative theories and implications for reform," Economics Working Papers 385, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  15. Michal Slavík, 2006. "The Czech Pension System and the Perspectives of Its Reform," Prague Economic Papers, University of Economics, Prague, vol. 2006(3), pages 214-230.

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