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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

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  • Martin S. Feldstein
  • Jeffrey B. Liebman

Abstract

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. Critics of investment-based plans have been concerned that such plans might reduce the retirement income of low-paid workers or of surviving spouses relative to what they would get from Social Security, and might therefore increase the extent of poverty among the aged. Our analysis in this paper shows that this is generally not the case, even in plans that make no special effort to maintain or increase redistribution. Our principal finding is that virtually all of the demographic groups that we examine would receive higher average benefits under a mixed system with an investment-based component than the benefits that they would receive under current Social Security rules. There would also be a smaller share of individuals with benefits below the poverty line even though the total cost of funding the mixed system -- a three percent saving contribution rather than a six percent rise in the tax rate -- is substantially lower than that of funding the pay-as-you-go system. Our individual-level data permit us to go beyond comparing group means to analyze the full distribution of the benefits that individuals would receive under the two different systems. These comparisons show that the overwhelming majority of individuals would have higher benefits with the investment-based system than with the pure pay-as-you-go system. The relatively small number of individuals who would receive less from the investment-based system is further reduced when the effects of the Supplementary Security Income program is taken into account. These basic conclusions remain true even if the future rate of return in the investment-based component of the mixed system is substantially less than past experience implies.
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Suggested Citation

  • Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 263-326 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:9753
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Feldstein, Martin, 1996. "The Missing Piece in Policy Analysis: Social Security Reform," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 1-14, May.
    2. 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.
    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. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Lawrence J. & Puffert, Douglas J. & Shoven, John B., 1986. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," CEPR Publications 244432, Stanford University, Center for Economic Policy Research.
    5. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
    6. Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1985. "The Distributional Impact of Social Security," NBER Chapters,in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 193-222 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2000. "Social Security Benefits of Immigrants and U.S. Born," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Immigration, pages 309-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Martin Feldstein & Andrew Samwick, 1997. "The Economics of Prefunding Social Security and Medicare Benefits," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1997, Volume 12, pages 115-164 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Lee, Ronald & Tuljapurkar, Shripad, 1998. "Uncertain Demographic Futures and Social Security Finances," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 237-241, May.
    10. 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.
    11. Judith Chevalier & Glenn Ellison, 1999. "Career Concerns of Mutual Fund Managers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 389-432.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "Redistribution in the Current U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 11-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Aruoba, S. Boragan & Fernandez-Villaverde, Jesus & Rubio-Ramirez, Juan F., 2006. "Comparing solution methods for dynamic equilibrium economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 2477-2508, December.
    3. Arza, Camila, 2008. "The Limits of Pension Privatization: Lessons from Argentine Experience," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2696-2712, December.
    4. Lyon, Andrew B. & Stell, John L., 2000. "Analysis of Current Social Security Reform Proposals," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 53(n. 3), pages 473-514, September.
    5. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2003. "Redistribution and Insurance: Mandatory Annuitization With Mortality Heterogeneity," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 70(1), pages 17-41.
    6. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2001. "How effective is redistribution under the social security benefit formula?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 1-28, October.
    7. Dennis Fredriksen & Nils Martin Stølen, 2005. "Effects of demographic development, labour supply and pension reforms on the future pension burden," Discussion Papers 418, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
    8. Casarico, Alessandra & Devillanova, Carlo, 2008. "Capital-skill complementarity and the redistributive effects of Social Security Reform," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 672-683, April.
    9. Afonso, Luís Eduardo & Fernandes, Reynaldo, 2005. "Uma Estimativa dos Aspectos Distributivos da Previdência Social no Brasil," Revista Brasileira de Economia - RBE, FGV/EPGE - Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finanças, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil), vol. 59(3), July.
    10. Jimeno, Juan F. & Rojas, Juan A. & Puente, Sergio, 2008. "Modelling the impact of aging on social security expenditures," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 201-224, March.
    11. Binswanger, Johannes, 2007. "Risk management of pensions from the perspective of loss aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 641-667, April.
    12. Juan F. Jimeno, "undated". "Incentivos y desigualdad en el sistema español de pensiones contributivas de jubilación," Working Papers 2002-13, FEDEA.
    13. Pfau, Wade Donald, 2007. "Reforming Social Security: Issues and Challenges for Personal Retirement Accounts," MPRA Paper 19034, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Louis Kaplow, 2011. "Targeted savings and labor supply," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 18(5), pages 507-518, October.
    15. Andrew Coleman, 2014. "The growth, equity, and risk implications of different retirement income policies," New Zealand Economic Papers, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(2), pages 226-239, August.
    16. 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.
    17. Douglas W. Elmendorf & Jeffrey B. Liebman & David W. Wilcox, 2001. "Fiscal Policy and Social Security Policy During the 1990s," NBER Working Papers 8488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Martin Feldstein, 2005. "Structural Reform of Social Security," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(2), pages 33-55, Spring.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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