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An Examination of Empirical Tests of Social Security and Savings

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  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Abstract

The effect of social security and other forms of government debt on national savings is one of the most widely debated policy questions in economics today. Some estimates suggest that social security has reduced U.S. savings by almost forty percent. This paper examines recent cross-section and time series empirical tests of the social security-savings question and argues that, given current data, neither type of test has much potential for settling the controversy. In particular, there are a number of specification problems relating to social security time series regressions that can easily lead to highly unstable coefficients and to rejection of the hypothesis that social security reduces savings, even if it is actually true. These points are demonstrated by running regressions on hypothetical data generated by a perfect foresight life-cycle growth model developed previously by the authors. While the data is obtained from a model in which social security reduces the nation's capital stock by almost twenty percent, time series social security regression coefficients vary enormously depending on the specified level of the program, the preferences of hypothetical households, the level of concommitant government policies, and the time interval of the data.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1981. "An Examination of Empirical Tests of Social Security and Savings," NBER Working Papers 0730, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0730 Note: PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Martin Feldstein, 1980. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation:A Correction and Updating," NBER Working Papers 0579, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1983. "National Savings, Economic Welfare, and the Structure of Taxation," NBER Chapters,in: Behavioral Simulation Methods in Tax Policy Analysis, pages 459-498 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Brunner, Karl & Meltzer, Allan H., 1976. "The Phillips curve," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 1-18, January.
    5. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1979. "Social Security and Equilibrium Capital Intensity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(2), pages 233-253.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hans Fehr & Sabine Jokisch & Laurence J Kotlikoff, 2006. "Will China Eat Our Lunch or Take Us to Dinner? Simulating the Transition Paths of the US, EU, Japan and China," RBA Annual Conference Volume,in: Christopher Kent & Anna Park & Daniel Rees (ed.), Demography and Financial Markets Reserve Bank of Australia.
    2. Yamada, Tetsuji, 1990. "The effects of Japanese social security retirement benefits on personal saving and elderly labor force behavior," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 327-363, December.
    3. Jokisch, Sabine & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 2007. "Simulating the Dynamic Macroeconomic and Microeconomic Effects of the FairTax," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 60(2), pages 225-252, June.
    4. Kevin C Cheng, 2003. "Economic Implications of China's Demographics in the 21st Century," IMF Working Papers 03/29, International Monetary Fund.
    5. Simon Gilchrist & Fabio M. Natalucci & Egon Zakrajsek, 2007. "Investment and the Cost of Capital: New Evidence from the Corporate Bond Market," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2007-027, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    6. Søren Nielsen, 1994. "Social security and foreign indebtedness in a small open economy," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 47-63, March.
    7. Michael J. Boskin & Lawrence J. Lau, 1988. "An Analysis of U.S. Postwar Consumption and Saving: Part II -- Empirical Results," NBER Working Papers 2606, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Summers, Lawrence H, 1984. "The After-Tax Rate of Return Affects Private Savings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 249-253, May.
    9. Marc Robinson, 1983. "Social Security and Physical Capital: An Interpretation of the Evidence, Lessons and Outlook," UCLA Economics Working Papers 307, UCLA Department of Economics.
    10. Lawrence H. Summers, 1982. "Tax Policy, the Rate of Return, and Savings," NBER Working Papers 0995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Andrew B. Abel & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1988. "Does the Consumption of Different Age Groups Move Together? A New Nonparametric Test of Intergenerational Altruism," NBER Working Papers 2490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Patric H. Hendershott & Joe Peek, 1987. "Private Saving in the United States: 1950-85," NBER Working Papers 2294, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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