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The Illusory Effects of Saving Incentives on Saving

  • Eric M. Engen
  • William G. Gale
  • John Karl Scholz

The authors evaluate research on how tax-based saving incentives (IRAs and 401(k)s) affect saving. Previous research overstates the impact of the incentives on saving by failing to account for several issues: households with saving incentives have stronger tastes for saving than others; saving incentives have interacted with debt, nonfinancial assets, financial markets, and pensions; and saving incentives represent pretax balances, whereas taxable accounts represent posttax balances. Accounting for these issues essentially eliminates the impact of saving incentives on saving. The authors conclude that little if any of the contributions to existing saving incentives have raised saving.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.10.4.113
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 10 (1996)
Issue (Month): 4 (Fall)
Pages: 113-138

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:10:y:1996:i:4:p:113-38
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.10.4.113
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  1. Daniel Feenberg & Jonathan Skinner, 1989. "Sources of IRA Saving," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 3, pages 25-46 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  3. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1991. "The Saving Effect of Tax-deferred Retirement Accounts: Evidence from SIPP," NBER Chapters, in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 103-130 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  17. Dicks-Mireaux, Louis & King, Mervyn, 1984. "Pension wealth and household savings: Tests of robustness," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 115-139.
  18. David A. Wise & Steven F. Venti, 1993. "The Wealth of Cohorts: Retirement Saving and the Changing Assets of Older Americans," NBER Working Papers 4600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. B. Douglas Bernheim & Daniel M. Garrett, 1996. "The Determinants and Consequences of Financial Education in the Workplace: Evidence from a Survey of Households," Working Papers 96007, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
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  25. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1992. "Government Policy and Personal Retirement Saving," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 6, pages 1-42 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Martin Feldstein, 1980. "Inflation, Portfolio Choice, and the Price of Land and Corporate Stock," NBER Working Papers 0526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Michael A. Curme & William E. Even, 1995. "Pension Coverage and Borrowing Constraints," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(4), pages 701-712.
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  30. Steven G. Allen & Robert L. Clark & Ann A. McDermed, 1993. "Pensions, Bonding, and Lifetime Jobs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 28(3), pages 463-481.
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