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

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  • John B. Shoven

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • John B. Shoven, 2007. "New Age Thinking: Alternative Ways of Measuring Age, Their Relationship to Labor Force Participation, Goverment Policies and GDP," NBER Working Papers 13476, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13476
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. David M. Cutler & Louise Sheiner, 1998. "Demographics and Medical Care Spending: Standard and Non-Standard Effects," NBER Working Papers 6866, 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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    Cited by:

    1. Lans Bovenberg & Theo Nijman, 2009. "Developments in pension reform: the case of Dutch stand-alone collective pension schemes," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 16(4), pages 443-467, August.
    2. Marcel Boyer & Sebastien Boyer, "undated". "The Main Challenge of Our Times: A Population Growing Younger," e-briefs 161, C.D. Howe Institute.
    3. Social Policy and Population Section, Social Development Division, ESCAP., 2011. "Asia-Pacific Population Journal Volume 26, No. 3," Asia-Pacific Population Journal, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), vol. 26(3), pages 1-84, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • J11 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Demographic Trends, Macroeconomic Effects, and Forecasts
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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