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Can Market and Voting Institutions Generate Optimal Intergenerational Risk Sharing?

In: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform


  • Antonio Rangel
  • Richard Zeckhauser


January 14, 1999 Are market and voting institutions capable of producing optimal intergenerational risk-sharing? To study this question we consider a simple endowment economy with uncertainty and overlapping generations. Endowments are stochastic; thus it is possible to increase the welfare of every generation using intergenerational transfers that might depend on the state of the world. We characterize the transfers that are necessary to restore efficiency and compare them to the transfers that take place in markets and voting institutions. Unlike most of the literature, we study both ex-ante and interim risk-sharing. Our main conclusion is that both types of institutions have serious problems. Markets cannot generate ex-ante risk-sharing because agents can trade only after they are born. Furthermore, markets generate interim efficient insurance in some, but not all economies because they cannot generate forward (old to young) intergenerational transfers. This market failure, in theory, could be corrected by government intervention. However, as long as government policy is determined by voting, intergenerational transfers might be driven more by redistributive politics than by risk-sharing considerations. Successful government intervention can arise, even though agents can only vote after they are born, but only if the young determine policy in every election.
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  • Antonio Rangel & Richard Zeckhauser, 2001. "Can Market and Voting Institutions Generate Optimal Intergenerational Risk Sharing?," NBER Chapters,in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 113-152 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10593

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    Cited by:

    1. Wagener, Andreas, 2004. "On intergenerational risk sharing within social security schemes," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 181-206, March.
    2. Panu Poutvaara, 2006. "On the political economy of social security and public education," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 19(2), pages 345-365, June.
    3. Matsen, Egil & Thogersen, Oystein, 2004. "Designing social security - a portfolio choice approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 883-904, August.
    4. Axel Boersch-Supan & Florian Heiss & Alexander Ludwig & Joachim Winter, 2003. "Pension Reform, Capital Markets and the Rate of Return," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 4(2), pages 151-181, May.
    5. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L., 2008. "Insurance and opportunities: A welfare analysis of labor market risk," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 501-525, April.
    6. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L, 2005. "Insurance and Opportunities: The Welfare Implications of Rising Wage Dispersion," CEPR Discussion Papers 5200, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Jasmina Hasanhodzic & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2013. "Generational Risk - Is It a Big Deal?: Simulating an 80-Period OLG Model with Aggregate Shocks," NBER Working Papers 19179, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Stéphane Guibaud & Yves Nosbusch & Dimitri Vayanos, 2013. "Bond Market Clienteles, the Yield Curve, and the Optimal Maturity Structure of Government Debt," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 26(8), pages 1914-1961.
    9. Øystein Thøgersen, 2006. "Intergenerational Risk Sharing by Means of Pay-as-you-go Programs – an Investigation of Alternative Mechanisms," CESifo Working Paper Series 1759, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. D'Amato, Marcello & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2010. "Political intergenerational risk sharing," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 628-637, October.
    11. Pecchenino, R.A. & Pollard, P.S., 1999. "Government Mandated Private Pensions: A Dependable Foundation for Retirement Security?," Papers 9902, Michigan State - Econometrics and Economic Theory.
    12. Antonio Rangel, 1999. "Forward and Backward Intergenerational Goods: A Theory of Intergenerational Exchange," Working Papers 00001, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    13. Bossi, Luca, 2008. "Intergenerational risk shifting through social security and bailout politics," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 2240-2268, July.
    14. Pecchenino, Rowena A. & Pollard, Patricia S., 2002. "Dependent children and aged parents: funding education and social security in an aging economy," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 145-169, June.
    15. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 2007. "Intergenerational Risk Sharing in the Spirit of Arrow, Debreu, and Rawls, with Applications to Social Security Design," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(4), pages 523-547, August.
    16. Hans Fehr, 2009. "Computable Stochastic Equilibrium Models and Their Use in Pension- and Ageing Research," De Economist, Springer, vol. 157(4), pages 359-416, December.
    17. Coleman Bazelon & Kent Smetters, 1999. "Discounting Inside the Washington D.C. Beltway," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(4), pages 213-228, Fall.
    18. Rowena A. Pecchenino & Patricia S. Pollard, 2005. "Aging, Myopia, and the Pay-As-You-Go Public Pension Systems of the G7: A Bright Future?," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(3), pages 449-470, August.
    19. 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.
    20. Rodrigo Cifuentes, 2000. "How Does Pension Reform Affect Savings and Welfare," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 80, Central Bank of Chile.
    21. Borgmann, Christoph, 2002. "Labor income risk, demographic risk, and the design of (wage-indexed) social security," Discussion Papers 100, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg, Institut für Finanzwissenschaft.
    22. Bohn, Henning, 2009. "Intergenerational risk sharing and fiscal policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 805-816, September.
    23. David Collard, 2000. "Generational transfers and the generational bargain," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(4), pages 453-462.

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