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

  • Vincenzo Galasso

    (CEPRA, Institute of Economics, Universita' della Svizzera Italiana)

  • Paola Profeta


    (Econpubblica, Bocconi University, Milan)

We study how the prevailing internal organization of the family affected the initial design of pension systems. Our theoretical framework predicts that, in society with weak family ties, pensions systems were introduced to act as a safety net, while in societies with strong ties they replicate the tight link between generations by providing generous benefits. Using a historical classification of family ties, we show that in societies dominated by (weak ties) absolute nuclear families (f.i. Anglo-Saxon countries), safety net pension systems emerged; and viceversa in societies dominated by strong families. These results are robust to controlling for alternative legal, religious, and political explanations. Evidence on individual data confirm these findings: US citizens whose ancestors came from countries featuring strong ties (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 USI Università della Svizzera italiana in its series CEPRA working paper with number 1201.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:lug:wcepra:1201
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  1. Pinotti Paolo, 2009. "Financial Development and Pay-As-You-Go Social Security," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 9(1), pages 1-21, March.
  2. Licht, Amir N. & Goldschmidt, Chanan & Schwartz, Shalom H., 2007. "Culture rules: The foundations of the rule of law and other norms of governance," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 659-688, December.
  3. Alesina, Alberto F & Algan, Yann & Cahuc, Pierre & Giuliano, Paola, 2010. "Family Values and the Regulation of Labor," CEPR Discussion Papers 7688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Raquel Fernandez & Alessandra Fogli, 2005. "Culture: An Empirical Investigation of Beliefs, Work, and Fertility," NBER Working Papers 11268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. 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.
  6. Gilles Duranton & Andrés Rodríguez-Pose & Richard Sandall, 2007. "Family Types and the Persistence of Regional Disparities in Europe," Bruges European Economic Research Papers 10, European Economic Studies Department, College of Europe.
  7. Alesina, Alberto & Giuliano, Paola, 2007. "The Power of the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 2750, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. 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.
  9. Vincenzo Galasso, 2008. "The Political Future of Social Security in Aging Societies," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026257246x, June.
  10. Tim Krieger & Stefan Traub, 2008. "Back to Bismarck? Shifting Preferences for Intragenerational Redistribution in OECD Pension Systems," Working Papers CIE 13, University of Paderborn, CIE Center for International Economics.
  11. Lindert Peter H., 1994. "The Rise of Social Spending, 1880-1930," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 1-37, January.
  12. J. Ignacio Conde-Ruiz & Paola Profeta, 2007. "The Redistributive Design of Social Security Systems," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(520), pages 686-712, 04.
  13. Koethenbuerger, Marko & Poutvaara, Panu & Profeta, Paola, 2005. "Why Are More Redistributive Social Security Systems Smaller? A Median Voter Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 1831, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Acemoglu,Daron & Robinson,James A., 2006. "Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521855266, October.
  15. Vincenzo Galasso & Paola Profeta, 2004. "Lessons for an ageing society: the political sustainability of social security systems," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 19(38), pages 63-115, 04.
  16. Galasso, Vincenzo & Gatti, Roberta & Profeta, Paola, 2008. "Investing for the Old Age: Pensions, Children and Savings," CEPR Discussion Papers 6825, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  17. repec:crr:crrwps:2004-07 is not listed on IDEAS
  18. David M. Cutler & Richard Johnson, 2001. "The birth and growth of the social-insurance state : explaining old-age and medical insurance across countries," Research Working Paper RWP 01-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.
  19. 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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