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The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System

In: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform

  • Martin S. Feldstein
  • Jeffrey B. Liebman

In this paper we study the distributional impact of a change from the existing pay-as-you-go Social Security system to one that combines both pay-as-you-go and investment-based elements. Such a transition can avert the large tax increases that would otherwise be necessary to maintain the level of benefits promised under current law as life expectancy increases. According to the Social Security actuaries (Board of Trustees, 1999), retaining the existing pay-as-you-go system would eventually require raising the current 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax rate to about 19 percent to maintain the current benefit rules or cutting benefits by more than one-third in order to avoid a tax increase. In contrast, previous research showed that adding an investment-based component with savings equal to two percent of covered earnings to the existing 12.4 percent pay-as-you-go system would be sufficient to maintain the benefits promised under current rules without any increase in tax rates (Feldstein and Samwick 1997, 1998a, 1998b).

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This chapter was published in:
  • Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld02-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 9753.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:9753
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Social Security Benefits of Immigrants and U.S. Born," NBER Working Papers 6478, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Lee, Ronald & Tuljapurkar, Shripad, 1998. "Uncertain Demographic Futures and Social Security Finances," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 237-41, May.
    3. Coronado Julia Lynn & Fullerton Don & Glass Thomas, 2011. "The Progressivity of Social Security," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-45, November.
    4. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1997. "The Economics of Prefunding Social Security and Medicare Benefits," NBER Working Papers 6055, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1983. "The Distributional Impact of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 1155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Poterba, James M., 1998. "The rate of return to corporate capital and factor shares: new estimates using revised national income accounts and capital stock data," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 211-246, June.
    7. Douglas W. Elmendorf & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2000. "Social Security Reform and National Saving in an Era of Budget Surpluses," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(2), pages 1-72.
    8. Fred T. Goldberg, Jr. & Michael J. Graetz, 1999. "Reforming Social Security: A Practical and Workable System of Personal Retirement Accounts," NBER Working Papers 6970, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
    10. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova, 1998. "Individual Risk and Intergenerational Risk Sharing in an Investment-Based Social Security Program," NBER Working Papers 6839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Michael J. Boskin & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Douglas J. Puffert & John B. Shoven, 1987. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," NBER Working Papers 1891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Judith Chevalier & Glenn Ellison, 1999. "Career Concerns Of Mutual Fund Managers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(2), pages 389-432, May.
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