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Privatization of Social Security: How It Works and Why It Matters

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

This paper uses the Auerbach-Kotlikoff Dynamic Life-Cycle Model (AK Model) to examine the macroeconomic and efficiency effects of privatizing social security, and a simple privatization proposal, the Personal Security System, to discuss other issues associated with privatization. According to the AK Model, privatizing social security can create major long-run increases in output and living standards which come largely but not exclusively at the expense of existing generations. Indeed, the pure gains refers to the welfare improvement for future generations after existing generations have been fully compensated for losses from privatization. The precise size of the efficiency gain depends on the existing tax structure, linkage between benefits and taxes under the existing social security system and the choice of the tax instrument used to finance benefits during the transition. When the initial tax structure has a progressive income tax, when the existing system's benefit-tax linkage is low, when consumption taxation is used to finance benefits during transi- tion and when existing generations are fully compensated for privatization losses, there is a 4.5 % simulated welfare gain to future generations. But if these circumstances don't hold, the efficiency gains from privatization are likely to be smaller, possibly negative. The Personal Security System shows there are simple ways to privatize the retirement portion of the U.S. Social Security System and credit workers for their past contributions, and even provide more survivors' protection than the current system. But the analysis suggests that benefits must be set against a possible reduction in progressivity and a reduction in longevity insurance for the elderly.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5330.

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Date of creation: Oct 1995
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Publication status: published as Privatization of Social Security: How It Works and Why It Matters , Laurence J. Kotlikoff. in Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 10 , Poterba. 1996
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5330
Note: PE
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  1. Arrau, Patricio, 1990. "Social security reform : the capital accumulation and intergenerational distribution effect," Policy Research Working Paper Series 512, The World Bank.
  2. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," UCLA Economics Working Papers 151, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. Martin Feldstein, 1995. "Would Privatizing Social Security Raise Economic Welfare?," NBER Working Papers 5281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Auerbach, A.J. & Kotlikoff, L.J. & Weil, D.N., 1992. "The Increasing Annuitization of the Elderly - Estimates and Implications for Intergenerational Transfers, Inequality and National Saving," Papers 6, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  5. Robert C. Merton, 1981. "On the Role of Social Security as a Means for Efficient Risk-Bearing in an Economy Where Human Capital Is Not Tradeable," NBER Working Papers 0743, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John Sabelhaus, 1996. "Understanding the Postwar Decline in U.S. Saving: A Cohort Analysis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(1), pages 315-407.
  7. Alan J. Auerbach & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John Sabelhaus & David N. Weil, 1995. "The Annuitization of Americans' Resources: A Cohort Analysis," NBER Working Papers 5089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Peter Diamond, 2004. "Social Security," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 1-24, March.
  9. Michael J. Boskin & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Douglas J. Puffert & John B. Shoven, 1987. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," NBER Working Papers 1891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1, October.
  11. Salvador Valdés & Peter Diamond, . "Social Security Reforms in Chile," Documentos de Trabajo 161, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
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