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When the State Mirrors the Family: The Design of Pension Systems

  • Vincenzo Galasso
  • Paola Profeta

The family is a primal institution, whose internal organization can be transferred to collective institutions, which come to substitute the family in one of its economic roles. We study how the family structure affected the initial design of pension systems. Our theoretical framework predicts that, when pensions systems are introduced in society with weak family ties, they act as a safety net, while in societies with strong ties pensions they replicate the tight link between generations and tend to provide generous benefits. Using Todd (1983) historical classification of family ties, we show that in societies dominated by absolute nuclear families, i.e. weak family ties (f.i. Anglo-Saxon countries), pension systems emerged as a safety net; and viceversa in societies dominated by strong families. Yet, historical family types are not correlated with the size of the pension systems, which have largely changed over time. These results are robust to controlling for alternative explanations, such as legal origin, religion, urbanization and democratization, electoral rules and forms of government. Moreover, evidence on individual data confirm the cross-country results: individuals whose ancestors came to the US from countries featuring communitarian or egalitarian nuclear families prefer to rely on the government as a provider of old age security through generous retirement benefits.

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Paper provided by IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University in its series Working Papers with number 392.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:392
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  1. Amir N. Licht & Chanan Goldschmidt & Shalom H. Schwartz, 2003. "Culture Rules: The Foundations of the Rule of Law and Other Norms of Governance," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2003-605, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
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  3. Elizabeth Caucutt & Thomas Cooley & Nezih Guner, 2013. "The farm, the city, and the emergence of social security," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 18(1), pages 1-32, March.
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  8. Koethenbuerger, Marko & Poutvaara, Panu & Profeta, Paola, 2008. "Why are more redistributive social security systems smaller? A median voter approach," Munich Reprints in Economics 19459, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
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  10. repec:crr:crrwps:2004-07 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Galasso, Vincenzo & Gatti, Roberta & Profeta, Paola, 2008. "Investing for the old age : pensions, children and savings," Social Protection Discussion Papers 47101, The World Bank.
  12. Lindert Peter H., 1994. "The Rise of Social Spending, 1880-1930," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-37, January.
  13. Cutler, David & Johnson, Richard, 2004. "The Birth and Growth of the Social Insurance State: Explaining Old-Age and Medical Insurance Across Countries," Scholarly Articles 2643658, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  16. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Paola Profeta, 2007. "The Redistributive Design of Social Security Systems," Working Papers 2007-07, FEDEA.
  17. Vincenzo Galasso, 2006. "The Political Future of Social Security in Aging Societies," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262072734, June.
  18. Disney, Richard, 2007. "Population ageing and the size of the welfare state: Is there a puzzle to explain?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 542-553, June.
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