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Optimal Social Security Design

  • Miles, David K
  • Sefton, James

This Paper considers the optimal design of public pension provision for the retired and income support for those of working age. We consider social security systems that differ in terms of the level of benefits, degree of means testing and the nature of contributions. We aim to find which system maximises the expected utility of agents behind an initial veil of ignorance about their future labour productivity. We also explore whether systems which differ from the (ex-ante) optimal one could be reformed. We ask whether agents who already know what their productivity is would vote for a move towards a system that they would have found optimal from behind a veil of ignorance about their own position on the wages ladder. We also consider which systems could be sustained in an economy where reform is decided by majority voting. We find a substantial role for means testing in optimal welfare systems. We also find the possibility of multiple equilbria in welfare systems.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 3290.

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Date of creation: Mar 2002
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:3290
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  1. Robert Moffitt, 2002. "Economic Effects of Means-Tested Transfers in the U.S," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 1-36 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dr Martin Weale, 1997. "Income distribution and income dynamics in the United Kingdom," NIESR Discussion Papers 221, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  3. Feldstein, Martin S, 1987. "Should Social Security Benefits Be Means Tested?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 468-84, June.
  4. Robert C. Merton, 1983. "On the Role of Social Security as a Means for Efficient Risk Sharing in an Economy Where Human Capital Is Not Tradable," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 325-358 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1994. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
  7. 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.
  8. Jonathan Gruber & Aaron Yelowitz, 1999. "Public Health Insurance and Private Savings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1249-1274, December.
  9. Martin Feldstein, 1992. "College Scholarship Rules and Private Saving," NBER Working Papers 4032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Breyer, Friedrich, 1994. "The political economy of intergenerational redistribution," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 61-84, May.
  11. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "The Transition to Investment-Based Social Security When Portfolio Returns and Capital Profitability Are Uncertain," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 41-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Powers, Elizabeth T., 1998. "Does means-testing welfare discourage saving? evidence from a change in AFDC policy in the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 33-53, April.
  13. Neumark, David & Powers, Elizabeth, 1998. "The effect of means-tested income support for the elderly on pre-retirement saving: evidence from the SSI program in the U.S," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 181-206, May.
  14. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2001. "The Transition to Personal Accounts and Increasing Retirement Wealth: Macro and Micro Evidence," NBER Working Papers 8610, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Browning, Edgar K, 1975. "Why the Social Insurance Budget Is Too Large in a Democracy," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(3), pages 373-88, September.
  16. Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Prosperity and Depression: 2002 Richard T. Ely Lecture," Working Papers 618, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  17. Besley, Timothy, 1990. "Means Testing versus Universal Provision in Poverty Alleviation Programmes," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 57(225), pages 119-29, February.
  18. Henning Bohn, 1999. "Social Security and Demographic Uncertainty: The Risk Sharing Properties of Alternative Policies," NBER Working Papers 7030, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
  20. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521497695 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Dawn Holland, 2003. "FDI Penetration and Net Trade in the EU Accession Countries," NIESR Discussion Papers 116, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  22. David Altig, 2001. "Simulating Fundamental Tax Reform in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 574-595, June.
  23. Creedy, J., 1995. "Means-Tested Versus Universal Transfers," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 455, The University of Melbourne.
  24. 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, June.
  25. Robert B. Barsky & Miles S. Kimball & F. Thomas Juster & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1995. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 5213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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