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Generational Accounts, Aggregate Saving and Intergenerational Distribution

  • Willem H. Buiter

Are generational accounts informative about the effect of the budget on the intergenerational distribution of resources and (when augmented with generation-specific propensities to consume out of life-time resources) on aggregate consumption and saving? The paper makes three points. First, the usefulness of generational accounts lives or dies with the strict life-cycle model of household consumption. Voluntary intergenerational gifts or liquidity constraints may therefore adversely affect or even destroy their informativeness. Second, even when the life-cycle model holds, generational accounts only measure the effect of the budget on the lifetime consumption of private goods and services. They ignore the intergenerational (re-)distribution associated with the government's provision of public goods and services. Third, generational accounting ignores the effect of the budget on before-tax and before-transfer quantities and prices, including before-tax and -transfer distribution of life-time resources across generations and intertemporal relative prices. That is, it does not handle incidence or general equilibrium repercussions very well. Although useful, generational accounts should therefore carry the label 'handle with great care.'

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5087.

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Date of creation: Apr 1995
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Economica, Vol.64 (1997), pp. 605-626.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5087
Note: PE
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  1. Willem H. Buiter & K.M. Kletzer, 1994. "Ponzi Finance, Government Solvency and the Redundancy or Usefulness of Public Debt," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1070, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Willem H. Buiter, 1990. "Principles of Budgetary and Financial Policy," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262524139, June.
  3. Fumio Hayashi, 1985. "Tests for Liquidity Constraints: A Critical Survey," NBER Working Papers 1720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1989. "From Deficit Delusion to the Fiscal Balance Rule: Looking For an Economically Meaningful Way to Assess Fiscal Policy," NBER Working Papers 2841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1991. "Generational accounting: a new approach for understanding the effects of fiscal policy on saving," Working Paper 9107, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  6. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1994. "Generational Accounting: A Meaningful Way to Evaluate Fiscal Policy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 73-94, Winter.
  7. Eric O'N. Fisher & YoungSoo Woo, 1994. "A New Meaure of the Korean Current Account," International Finance 9411001, EconWPA.
  8. Yotsuzuka, Toshiki, 1987. "Ricardian equivalence in the presence of capital market imperfections," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 411-436, September.
  9. Eaton, Jonathan & Gersovitz, Mark, 1981. "Debt with Potential Repudiation: Theoretical and Empirical Analysis," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 48(2), pages 289-309, April.
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