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The Optimal Level of Social Security Benefits

  • Feldstein, Martin S

The optimal level of Social Security benefits depends on balancing the protection that these benefits offer to those who have not provided adequately for their own old age against the welfare costs of distorting economic behavior. The primary such cost is the distortion in private saving. The present paper derives the level of Social Security benefits that is optimal in three basic cases. In the first section of the paper, the optimal level of benefits is derived for an economy in which all individuals do not anticipate retirement at all and therefore do not save. The second and third sections then derive the optimal benefits for economies with two different definitions of attitudes toward retirement and saving.

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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 100 (1985)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 303-20

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:100:y:1985:i:2:p:303-20
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  1. Feldstein, Martin & Dicks-Mireaux, Louis & Poterba, James, 1983. "The effective tax rate and the pretax rate of return," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 129-158, July.
  2. Diamond, P. A. & Hausman, J. A., 1984. "Individual retirement and savings behavior," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 81-114.
  3. Feldstein, Martin S, 1976. "Perceived Wealth in Bonds and Social Security: A Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(2), pages 331-36, April.
  4. Paul A. Samuelson, 1958. "An Exact Consumption-Loan Model of Interest with or without the Social Contrivance of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 467.
  5. P. A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1977. "A Model of Social Insurance With Variable Retirement," Working papers 210, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. J. A. Mirrlees & P. Diamond, 1982. "Social Insurance with Variable Retirement and Private Saving," Working papers 296, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  7. Feldstein, Martin S, 1982. "Social Security and Private Saving: Reply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(3), pages 630-42, June.
  8. Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1979. "Testing the Theory of Social Security and Life Cycle Accumulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 396-410, June.
  9. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
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