IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

An International Perspective on Policies for an Aging Society


  • Jonathan Gruber
  • David Wise


The single most important long run fiscal issue facing the developed world is the aging of its populations. In virtually every developed country, there will be a steep increase in the ratio of the elderly to the working age population over the first half of the 21st century. The purpose of our paper is to provide an international perspective on public policies directed towards the elderly, and to discuss the implications of these policies for both the elderly and for government budgets. We begin by briefly reviewing the panoply of public programs targeted to the elderly, and document wide variation among the otherwise similar OECD nations in government spending directed towards the elderly. We then review what this increased spending is buying the elderly by providing some evidence on the relationship between social insurance program incentives and labor supply, between public spending and average elderly incomes, and between public spending and elderly poverty rates. We provide some suggestive evidence that public spending on the elderly is doing little to raise their incomes on average, perhaps due to increased early retirement, but that it is significantly protecting them against poverty. We then ask what the demographic transition bodes for the future: if countries do not change their behavior, what is the likely path for their fiscal situations? We also show that, if the past is any guide, the burden of paying these high fiscal bills is likely to be paid through reduced spending elsewhere, particularly on programs for the non-elderly.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Gruber & David Wise, 2001. "An International Perspective on Policies for an Aging Society," NBER Working Papers 8103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8103
    Note: AG LS PE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. David M. Cutler, 2002. "Equality, Efficiency, and Market Fundamentals: The Dynamics of International Medical-Care Reform," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(3), pages 881-906, September.
    3. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-926, Sept./Oct.
    4. Axel Borsch-Supan & Reinhold Schnabel, 1999. "Social Security and Retirement in Germany," NBER Chapters, in: Social Security and Retirement around the World, pages 135-180, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jonathan Gruber & David A. Wise, 1999. "Social Security and Retirement around the World," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number grub99-1, January.
    6. Gruber, Jonathan & Wise, David A. (ed.), 1999. "Social Security and Retirement around the World," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226310114, Winter.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8103. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.