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Government Policy and Labor Supply with Myopic or Targeted Savings Decisions

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  • Louis Kaplow

Abstract

A central justification for social insurance and for other policies aimed at retirement savings is that individuals may fail to make adequate provision during their working years. Much research has focused on myopia and other behavioral limitations. Yet little attention has been devoted to how these infirmities, and government policies to rectify them, influence labor supply. This linkage could be extremely important in light of the large pre-existing distortion due to income and consumption taxation and income-based transfer programs. For example, might myopic individuals, as a first approximation, view payroll taxes and other withholding to fund retirement savings as akin to an income tax, while largely ignoring the distant future retirement benefits that they fund? If so, the distortion of labor supply may be many times higher than otherwise, making savings-promotion policies much more costly than appreciated. Or consider what may be the labor supply implications for an individual who is defaulted into higher savings and, as a consequence, sees concomitantly lower take-home pay. This essay offers a preliminary, conceptual exploration of these questions. In most of the cases considered, savings policies do not act purely like a tax despite individuals’ non-optimizing savings behavior, and in some cases labor supply actually is raised, not lowered, in which event policies that boost savings may be significantly more welfare-enhancing than recognized. Accordingly, there is a compelling need for empirical exploration of the interaction between nonoptimal savings behavior and labor supply.

Suggested Citation

  • Louis Kaplow, 2015. "Government Policy and Labor Supply with Myopic or Targeted Savings Decisions," NBER Working Papers 21109, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21109
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard H. Thaler & Shlomo Benartzi, 2004. "Save More Tomorrow (TM): Using Behavioral Economics to Increase Employee Saving," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(S1), pages 164-187, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H24 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Personal Income and Other Nonbusiness Taxes and Subsidies
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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