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Privatization of Social Security: How It Works and Why It Matters

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

This paper uses the Auerbach-Kotlikoff Dynamic Life-Cycle Model (AK Model) to examine the macroeconomic and efficiency effects of privatizing social security. It also uses a simple privatization proposal, the Personal Security System, as a framework to discuss a number of other issues associated with social security's privatization, including transition rules and changes in the overall degree of progressivity. According to the AK Model's simulations, privatizing social security can generate very major long-run increases in output and living standards. These gains come largely at the expense of existing generations, but not exclusively at their expense. Indeed, the pure efficiency gains from privatization can be substantial. Efficiency gains refers here to the welfare improvement available to future generations after existing generations have been fully compensated for their losses from privatization. The precise size of the efficiency gain depends on the existing tax structure, the linkage between benefits and taxes under the existing social security system, and the choice of the tax instrument used to finance benefits during the transition. When the initial tax structure features a progressive income tax, when the existing system's benefit-tax linkage is low, when consumption taxation is used to finance social security benefits during the transition, and when existing generations are fully compensated for their privatization losses, there is a 4.5 percent simulated welfare gain to future generations from privatization. But if these circumstances don't hold, the efficiency gains from privatization are likely to be smaller, possibly even negative. For example, when the initial tax structure is a proportional income tax, when benefit-tax linkage is perceived to be dollar for dollar, when the income tax rate is raised to finance social security benefits during the privatization transition, and when current generations are fully compensated, there is a 3.1 percent welfa

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This chapter was published in:
  • James M. Poterba, 1996. "Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number pote96-1, December.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 10897.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10897
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

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    1. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John Sabelhaus, 1996. "Understanding the Postwar Decline in U.S. Saving: A Cohort Analysis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 315-407.
    2. Robert C. Merton, 1981. "On the Role of Social Security as a Means for Efficient Risk-Bearing in an Economy Where Human Capital Is Not Tradeable," NBER Working Papers 0743, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1, December.
    4. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Spivak, Avia, 1981. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 372-91, April.
    5. Arrau, Patricio, 1990. "Social security reform : the capital accumulation and intergenerational distribution effect," Policy Research Working Paper Series 512, The World Bank.
    6. Auerbach, A.J. & Kotlikoff, L.J. & Weil, D.N., 1992. "The Increasing Annuitization of the Elderly - Estimates and Implications for Intergenerational Transfers, Inequality and National Saving," Papers 6, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    7. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Would Privatizing Social Security Raise Economic Welfare?," NBER Working Papers 5281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
    9. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John Sabelhaus & David N. Weil, 1995. "The Annuitization of Americans' Resources: A Cohort Analysis," NBER Working Papers 5089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Salvador Valdés & Peter Diamond, . "Social Security Reforms in Chile," Documentos de Trabajo 161, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    11. Michael J. Boskin & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Douglas J. Puffert & John B. Shoven, 1986. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," NBER Working Papers 1891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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