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Will China Eat Our Lunch or Take Us to Dinner?—Simulating the Transition Paths of the U.S., E.U., Japan, and China

  • Hans Fehr

    (University of Wuerzberg)

  • Sabine Jokisch,

    (University of Wuerzberg)

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

    (Boston University, National Bureau of Economic Research)

This paper develops a dynamic, life-cycle, general equilibrium model to study the interdependent demographic, fiscal, and economic transition paths of China, Japan, the U.S., and the EU. Each of these countries/regions is entering a period of rapid and significant aging that will require major fiscal adjustments. But the aging of these societies may be a cloud with a silver lining coming, in this case, in the form of capital deepening that will raise real wages. China eventually becomes the world’s saver and, thereby, the developed world’s savoir with respect to its long-run supply of capital and long-run general equilibrium prospects. And, rather than seeing the real wage per unit of human capital fall, the West and Japan see it rise by one fifth percent by 2030 and by three fifths by 2100. Even if the Chinese saving behavior gradually approaches that of Americans, developed world real wages per unit of human capital are roughly 17 percent higher in 2030 and 4 percent higher at the end of the century. Without China they’d be only 2 percent higher in 2030 and 4 percent lower at Century’s end. The short-run outflow of capital to China is met with a commensurate short-run reduction in developed world labor supply, leaving the short-run ratio of physical capital to human capital, on which wages positively depend, actually somewhat higher than would otherwise be the case. On the other hand, our findings about the developed world’s fiscal condition are quite troubling. Even under the most favorable macroeconomic scenario, tax rates will rise dramatically over time in the developed world to pay baby boomers their governmentpromised pension and health benefits. As Argentina has so recently shown, countries can grow quite well for years even with unsustainable fiscal policies. But if they wait too long to address those policies, the financial markets will do it for them, with often quite ruinous consequences.

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Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp102.

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Length: 70 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp102
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  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Kent A. Smetters & Jan Walliser, 1998. "Social Security: Privatization and Progressivity," NBER Working Papers 6428, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Kent Smetters & Jan Walliser, 1999. "Privatizing Social Security in the U.S. -- Comparing the Options," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(3), pages 532-574, July.
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  12. Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2004. "The Role of Immigration in Dealing with the Developed World's Demographic Transition," NBER Working Papers 10512, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Hugett, M. & Ventura, G., 1997. "On the Distributional Effects of Social Security Reform," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 9710, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
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  16. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Kent Smetters & Jan Walliser, 2002. "Distributional Effects in a General Equilibrium Analysis of Social Security," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 327-370 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Fehr, Hans & Halder, Gitte & Jokisch, Sabine & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 2003. "A simulation model for the demographic transition in the OECD: Data requirements, model structure and calibration," W.E.P. - Würzburg Economic Papers 45, University of Würzburg, Chair for Monetary Policy and International Economics.
  18. Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Larry Kotlikoff, 2003. "The Developed World's Demographic Transition - the Roles of Capital Flows, Immigration, and Policy," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-133, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  19. Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Laurence Kotlikoff, 2004. "Fertility, Mortality, and the Developed World’s Demographic Transition," CESifo Working Paper Series 1326, CESifo Group Munich.
  20. Whitehouse, Edward, 2001. "Pension systems in 15 countries compared: the value of entitlements," MPRA Paper 14751, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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  25. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-26, Sept./Oct.
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