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New Age Thinking: Alternative Ways of Measuring Age, Their Relationship to Labor Force Participation, Goverment Policies and GDP

  • John B. Shoven
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    The current practice of measuring age as years-since-birth, both in common practice and in the law, rather than alternative measures reflecting a person's stage in the lifecycle distorts important behavior such as retirement, saving, and the discussion of dependency ratios. Two alternative measures of age are explored: mortality risk and remaining life expectancy. With these alternative measures, the huge wave of elderly forecast for the first half of this century doesn't look like a huge wave at all. By conventional 65+ standards, the fraction of the population that is elderly will grow by about 66 percent. However, the fraction of the population that is above a mortality rate that corresponds to 65+ today will grow by only 20 percent. Needless to say, the aging of the society is a lot less dramatic with the alternative mortality-based age measures. In a separate application of age measurement, I examine the consequences of stabilizing labor force participation by age with alternative age definitions. If labor force participation were to remain as it is today with respect to remaining life expectancy (i.e. if the length of retirement stayed where it is today) rather than labor force participation remaining fixed by conventionally-defined age, then there would be 9.6 percent more total labor supply by 2050 in the U.S. This additional labor supply could help finance entitlement programs amongst other things. GDP would be between seven and ten percent higher by 2050 if retirement lengths stabilize. Several policies are examined that would encourage longer work careers.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w13476.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13476.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2007
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13476
    Note: AG PE
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    1. David M. Cutler & Louise Sheiner, 1999. "Demographics and medical care spending: standard and non-standard effects," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. Gopi Shah Goda & John B. Shoven & Sita Nataraj Slavov, 2009. "Removing the Disincentives in Social Security for Long Careers," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 21-38 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Victor R. Fuchs, 1984. ""Though Much is Taken" -- Reflections on Aging, Health, and Medical Care," NBER Working Papers 1269, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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