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Observations on the Indexation of Old Age Pensions

In: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System

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  • Lawrence H. Summers

Abstract

This paper examines some positive and normative aspects of the inflation indexation of public and private pensions. The analysis showsthat alternative indexing arrangements may have far less impact on actual patterns of risk bearing than is usually thought to be the case. In so far as inflation indexing has real effects, there is no presumption that they are beneficial. In particular, the pre-commitment aspects of publicindexing may not be efficient. There are sound reasons to believe that voluntarily agreed on, non-indexed private pensions may well be efficient.Non-indexed pensions may result in an efficient allocation of risks given the other assets and liabilities of pension issuers and beneficiaries. In this case, indexation would impede the efficient allocation of risks. In this paper is also developed an ICOLI (interteinporal cost of living index) which is superior to conventional price indices as a way of evaluating the changes in real well being,associated with changes in wealth. The use of this measure has significant implications for the indexation of pensions, and for the question of what assets should be held in pension portfolios.
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Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence H. Summers, 1983. "Observations on the Indexation of Old Age Pensions," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 231-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6034
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Zvi Bodie, 1982. "Investment Strategy in an Inflationary Environment," NBER Chapters,in: The Changing Roles of Debt and Equity in Financing U.S. Capital Formation, pages 47-64 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1983. "The Economic Status of the Elderly," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 359-398 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Macroeconomics and Reality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 1-48, January.
    4. Pesando, James E, 1975. "A Note on the Rationality of the Livingston Price Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(4), pages 849-858, August.
    5. Liviatan, Nissan & Levhari, David, 1977. "Risk and the Theory of Indexed Bonds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 366-375, June.
    6. Breeden, Douglas T., 1979. "An intertemporal asset pricing model with stochastic consumption and investment opportunities," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 265-296, September.
    7. Merton, Robert C, 1973. "An Intertemporal Capital Asset Pricing Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 41(5), pages 867-887, September.
    8. Mullineaux, Donald J, 1978. "On Testing for Rationality: Another Look at the Livingston Price Expectations Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(2), pages 329-336, April.
    9. John A. Carlson, 1977. "A Study of Price Forecasts," NBER Chapters,in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 6, number 1, pages 27-56 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sickles, Robin C & Taubman, Paul, 1986. "An Analysis of the Health and Retirement Status of the Elderly," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(6), pages 1339-1356, November.
    2. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1993. "The Role of Pensions in the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. David F. Bradford, 1989. "Market Value Vs. Financial Accounting Measures of National Saving," NBER Working Papers 2906, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Robert C. Merton & Zvi Bodie & Alan Marcus, 1987. "Pension Plan Integration As Insurance Against Social Security Risk," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 147-172 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jacob A. Bikker & Peter J.G. Vlaar, 2006. "Conditional Indexation in Defined Benefit Pension Plans," DNB Working Papers 086, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.

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