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The Determinants of IRA Contributions and the Effect of Limit Changes

In: Pensions in the U.S. Economy


  • Steven F. Venti
  • David A. Wise


Tax-deferred savings are potentially an important component of savings for retirement and could represent a very substantial increase in tax-free savings for many employees. IRAs may also have a substantial effect on national savings. Total IRA contributionsin 1982 were over 29 billion dollars. Despite the program's size and potential significance, little is known about the determinants of IRA contributions.This paper presents: (1) analysis of the effect of individual attributes on whether a person contributes, (2) analysis of the effect of individual attributes on how much is contributed,and (3) simulations of the effect of potential changes in contribution limits on the amount that is contributed to IRA accounts. Results of a similar analysis based on Canadian data are compared with results for the United States. Persons with low incomes are unlikely to have IRA accounts. In addition, after controlling for income, age, and other variables, persons without private pension plans are no more likely than those with them to Contribute to an IRA. The analysis of Canadian data yields similar findings, and indeed specific parameter estimates for the two countries are very similar. Simulations based on the estimates suggest that the current Treasury Department proposal would lead to about a 30 percent increase in IRA contributions.
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Suggested Citation

  • Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1988. "The Determinants of IRA Contributions and the Effect of Limit Changes," NBER Chapters,in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 9-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6043

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Deaton, Angus & Irish, Margaret, 1984. "Statistical models for zero expenditures in household budgets," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1-2), pages 59-80.
    2. Feldstein, Martin S, 1976. "Personal Taxation and Portfolio Composition: An Econometric Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(4), pages 631-650, July.
    3. Mervyn A. King & Jonathan I. Leape, 1984. "Wealth and Portfolio Composition: Theory and Evidence," NBER Working Papers 1468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Håkan Selin, 2012. "Marginal Tax Rates and Tax‐Favoured Pension Savings of the Self‐Employed: Evidence from Sweden," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 114(1), pages 79-100, March.
    2. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1990. "Have IRAs Increased U. S. Saving?: Evidence from Consumer Expenditure Surveys," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 661-698.
    3. M. Antònia Monés & Eva Ventura, 1993. "Saving decisions and fiscal incentives: A Spanish panel based analysis," Economics Working Papers 41, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    4. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2004. "Employee Stock Purchase Plans," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 57(2), pages 385-406, June.
    5. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1987. "IRAs and Saving," NBER Chapters,in: The Effects of Taxation on Capital Accumulation, pages 7-52 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan S. Skinner, 1996. "Assessing the Effectiveness of Saving Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 73-90, Fall.
    7. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 2002. "Taxation and saving," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 18, pages 1173-1249 Elsevier.

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