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Positive Arithmetic of the Welfare State

  • J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz
  • Vincenzo Galasso

This paper argues that social security enjoys wider political support than other welfare programs because: (i) retirees constitute the most homogeneous voting group,\ and (ii) the intragenerational redistribution component of social security induces low-income young to support this system. In a dynamically efficient overlapping generation economy with earnings heterogeneity, we show that, for sufficient income inequality and enough elderly in the population, a welfare system composed of a within-cohort redistribution scheme and an unfunded social security system represents the political equilibrium of a two-dimensional majoritarian election. Social security is sustained by retirees and low- income young; while intragenerational redistribution by low-income young. Our model suggests that to assess how changes in inequality affect the welfare state, the income distribution should be decomposed by age groups.

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Paper provided by FEDEA in its series Working Papers with number 2003-04.

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Handle: RePEc:fda:fdaddt:2003-04
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  1. Conde-Ruiz, J. Ignacio & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2004. "The macroeconomics of early retirement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1849-1869, August.
  2. Meltzer, Allan H & Richard, Scott F, 1981. "A Rational Theory of the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 914-27, October.
  3. Guido Tabellini, 1990. "A Positive Theory of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 3272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Vincenzo Galasso, 1999. "The US Social Security System: What Does Political Sustainability Imply?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 698-730, July.
  5. Casamatta, Georges & Cremer, Helmuth & Pestieau, Pierre, 2000. " The Political Economy of Social Security," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 102(3), pages 503-22, June.
  6. Marco Bassetto, 2008. "Political Economy of Taxation in an Overlapping-Generations Economy," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(1), pages 18-43, January.
  7. Hassler, John & Mora, Jose & Storesletten, Kjetil & Zilibotti, Fabrizio, 2002. "The Survival of the Welfare State," Seminar Papers 704, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
  8. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  9. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1996. "Intergenerational Redistribution with Short-Lived Governments," NBER Working Papers 5447, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Vincenzo Galasso, . "Early retirement," Working Papers 2003-03, FEDEA.
  11. Galasso, Vincenzo & Profeta, Paola, 2002. "The political economy of social security: a survey," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 1-29, March.
  12. Javier Díaz-Giménez & Vincenzo Quadrini & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 1997. "Dimensions of inequality: facts on the U.S. distributions of earnings, income, and wealth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 3-21.
  13. 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.
  14. Lindert, Peter H., 1996. "What Limits Social Spending?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 1-34, January.
  15. Krusell, Per & Quadrini, Vincenzo & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1997. "Politico-economic equilibrium and economic growth," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 243-272, January.
  16. Michele Boldrin & Aldo Rustichini, 2000. "Political Equilibria with Social Security," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(1), pages 41-78, January.
  17. Azariadis, Costas & Galasso, Vincenzo, 2002. "Fiscal Constitutions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 103(2), pages 255-281, April.
  18. Romer, Thomas, 1975. "Individual welfare, majority voting, and the properties of a linear income tax," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 163-185, February.
  19. Esteban Joan Maria & Sakovics Jozsef, 1993. "Intertemporal Transfer Institutions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 189-205, December.
  20. Thomas F. Cooley & Jorge Soares, 1999. "A Positive Theory of Social Security Based on Reputation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 135-160, February.
  21. Perotti, Roberto, 1996. " Growth, Income Distribution, and Democracy: What the Data Say," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 149-87, June.
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