Social security in an aging society
Most of the recent claims that Social Security faces major financial challenges in the years ahead rely on the recognition that the US population is aging. Indeed, the coming wave of baby-boomer retirements plays a continuing role in calls for 'reform' of the program. However, the general aging of the population ensures that the problem will not go away even when that generation passes on. This paper focuses on the demographic trends facing the US (and world)—why is the population aging, and how fast? Will this lead to an intolerable burden on future generations of workers? While most of the public discussion focuses on Social Security's long-term finances, what really matters is whether the economy will be able to produce a sufficient quantity of real goods and services to provide for both workers and dependents in, say, the year 2080. If it cannot, then regardless of Social Security's finances, the real living standards of Americans in 2080 will have to be lower than they are today. Any reforms to Social Security made today should focus on increasing the economy's capacity to produce real goods and services, rather than on ensuring positive actuarial balances. It will be demonstrated that projected demographic changes are surprisingly modest, and can be accommodated at a measured pace with fairly small policy reforms.
Volume (Year): 18 (2006)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
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"Global demographic change : dimensions and economic significance,"
Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole,
Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Aug, pages 9-56.
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