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On the consequences of demographic change for rates of returns to capital, and the distribution of wealth and welfare

  • Krueger, Dirk
  • Ludwig, Alexander

In the industrialized world the population is aging over time, reducing the fraction of the population in working age. Consequently labor is expected to be scarce, relative to capital, with an ensuing decline in the real return on capital. This paper uses demographic projections together with a large scale multi-country Overlapping Generations Model with uninsurable idiosyncratic uncertainty to quantify the distributional and welfare consequences of these changes in factor prices induced by the demographic transition. In our model capital can freely flow between different regions in the OECD (the U.S., the EU and the rest of the OECD). Thus international capital flows may in principle mitigate the decline in rates of returns one would expect in the U.S. if it were a closed economy. We find exactly the opposite. In the U.S. as an open economy, rates of return are predicted to decline by 86 basis points between 2005 and 2080. If the U.S. were a closed economy, this decline would amount to only 78 basis points. This result is due to the fact that other regions in the OECD will age even more rapidly; therefore the U.S. is "importing" the more severe aging problem from these regions, especially Europe. A similar conclusion is reached if we let capital flow freely between the OECD and the rest of the world (ROW). While ROW currently has a younger population structure, it is predicted to age even more severely in the next decades, giving rise to an even more pronounced decline in world rates of return to capital. In order to evaluate the welfare consequences of the demographic transition we ask the following hypothetical question: suppose a household economically born in 2005 would live through the economic transition with changing factor prices induced by the demographic change (but keeping her own survival probabilities constant at their 2005 values), how would its welfare have changed, relative to a situation without a demographic transition? We find that hous

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Monetary Economics.

Volume (Year): 54 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 49-87

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Handle: RePEc:eee:moneco:v:54:y:2007:i:1:p:49-87
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505566

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