IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Who Wins and Who Loses? Public Transfer Accounts for US Generations Born 1850 to 2090


  • Antoine Bommier
  • Ronald Lee
  • Tim Miller
  • Stéphane Zuber


Public transfer programs in industrial countries are thought to benefit the elderly through pension and health care programs at the expense of the young and future generations. This intergenerational picture changes, however, if public education is also considered as a transfer program. We calculate the net present value at birth of benefits received minus taxes paid for US generations born 1850 to 2090. Surprisingly, all generations 1950 to 2050 are net gainers, while many current elderly are net losers. Windfall gains from starting Social Security and Medicare partially offset windfall losses from starting public education, roughly consistent with the arguments of Becker and Murphy. Copyright (c) 2010 The Population Council, Inc..

Suggested Citation

  • Antoine Bommier & Ronald Lee & Tim Miller & Stéphane Zuber, 2010. "Who Wins and Who Loses? Public Transfer Accounts for US Generations Born 1850 to 2090," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 36(1), pages 1-26.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:36:y:2010:i:1:p:1-26

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: link to full text
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Michele Boldrin & Ana Montes, 2005. "The Intergenerational State Education and Pensions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 651-664.
    2. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1991. "Generational Accounts: A Meaningful Alternative to Deficit Accounting," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 5, pages 55-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Antonio Rangel, 1999. "Forward and Backward Intergenerational Goods: A Theory of Intergenerational Exchange," Working Papers 00001, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    4. Xavier Chojnicki & Frederic Docquier, 2007. "Fiscal Policy and Educational Attainment in the United States: A Generational Accounting Perspective," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 74(294), pages 329-350, May.
    5. Boldrin, Michele & Montes Alonso, Ana, 1998. "Intergenerational transfer institutions public education and public pensions," UC3M Working papers. Economics 6148, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Departamento de Economía.
    6. Louise Sheiner & David M. Cutler, 2000. "Generational Aspects of Medicare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 303-307, May.
    7. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "The Family and the State," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 1-18, April.
    8. Theodore C. Bergstrom & John L. Hartman, 2005. "Demographics and the Political Sustainability of Pay-as-you-go Social Security," CESifo Working Paper Series 1378, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Carter, Lawrence R. & Lee, Ronald D., 1992. "Modeling and forecasting US sex differentials in mortality," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 393-411, November.
    10. Antonio Rangel, 2003. "Forward and Backward Intergenerational Goods: Why Is Social Security Good for the Environment?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 813-834, June.
    11. Kent Smetters & Jagadeesh Gokhale, 2003. "Fiscal and Generational Imbalances," Books, American Enterprise Institute, number 52628.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Paolo Pertile & Veronica Polin & Pietro Rizza & Marzia Romanelli, 2012. "Public finance consolidation and fairness across living generations: the case of Italy," Working Papers 04/2012, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
    2. Jorge Bravo & Mauricio Holz, 2011. "The significance of inter-age economic transgers in Chile," Chapters,in: Population Aging and the Generational Economy, chapter 12 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. Paolo Pertile & Veronica Polin & Pietro Rizza & Marzia Romanelli, 2015. "The fiscal disadvantage of young Italians: a new view on consolidation and fairness," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 13(1), pages 27-51, March.
    4. Ronald Lee, 2012. "Macroeconomic Implications of Demographic Changes: A Global Perspective," IMES Discussion Paper Series 12-E-11, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan.
    5. Lee, R., 2016. "Macroeconomics, Aging, and Growth," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, Elsevier.
    6. Hal Caswell & Fanny Annemarie Kluge, 2015. "Demography and the statistics of lifetime economic transfers under individual stochasticity," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 32(19), pages 563-588, February.
    7. Timothy Smeeding & Irwin Garfinkel & Lee Rainwater, 2005. "Welfare State Expenditures and the Redistribution of Well-Being: Children, Elders, and Others in Comparative Perspective," LIS Working papers 387, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    8. Zamac, Jovan, 2007. "Pension design when fertility fluctuates: The role of education and capital mobility," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 619-639, April.
    9. Gianko Michailidis & Concepció Patxot, 2018. "Political viability of intergenerational transfers. An empirical application," UB Economics Working Papers 2018/370, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    10. Torben M. Andersen & Joydeep Bhattacharya, 2013. "The Intergenerational Welfare State," CESifo Working Paper Series 4359, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Cassio M. Turra & Bernardo L Queiroz & Eduardo L. G. Rios-Neto, 2011. "Idiosyncrasies of intergenerational transfers in Brazil," Chapters,in: Population Aging and the Generational Economy, chapter 21 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H0 - Public Economics - - General


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bla:popdev:v:36:y:2010:i:1:p:1-26. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Wiley-Blackwell Digital Licensing) or (Christopher F. Baum). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.