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Means-Tested Age Pension and Homeownership: Is There a Link?


  • Sang-Wook (Stanley) Cho

    () (School of Economics, The University of New South Wales)

  • Renuka Sane

    () (School of Economics, The University of New South Wales)


Several targeted welfare programs across the world have made owner-occupied housing exempt from the means test, such as the Supplementary Social Income (SSI) in the US and the age pension scheme in Australia. Relatively little is known about the impact of such exemption on household portfolio choice. We study the case of the Australian age pension scheme, and argue that current uncapped exemption may lead to distortionary incentives for very high levels of housing wealth to be sheltered from the means test. We set up a quantitative lifecycle framework, with business and housing investment, borrowing constraints, and wealth inequality, that is able to match a number of key features in the Australian economy. We find that abolishing the current exemption of owner-occupied housing in the assets test increases aggregate output, capital accumulation, and welfare, while lowering housing investment and homeownership. However, removing such distortions, however, does not necessarily imply that all households would be better off. The lowering of other taxes to maintain fiscal balance would result in households at the top of the wealth distribution experiencing a large welfare loss, however the majority of the population would benefit.

Suggested Citation

  • Sang-Wook (Stanley) Cho & Renuka Sane, 2011. "Means-Tested Age Pension and Homeownership: Is There a Link?," Discussion Papers 2011-02, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
  • Handle: RePEc:swe:wpaper:2011-02

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:insuma:v:75:y:2017:i:c:p:32-47 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Hardy Hulley & Rebecca Mckibbin & Andreas Pedersen & Susan Thorp, 2013. "Means-Tested Public Pensions, Portfolio Choice and Decumulation in Retirement," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 89(284), pages 31-51, March.
    3. Emily Dabbs & Cagri Kumru, 2016. "How Well Does the Australian Aged Pension Provide Social Insurance?," Australian Economic Papers, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(3), pages 192-211, September.
    4. George Kudrna & Alan Woodland, 2012. "Progressive Tax Changes to Private Pensions in a Life-Cycle Framework," Working Papers 201209, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales.
    5. Johan G. Andreasson & Pavel V. Shevchenko & Alex Novikov, 2016. "Optimal Consumption, Investment and Housing with Means-tested Public Pension in Retirement," Papers 1606.08984,
    6. Deborah A. Cobb‐Clark & Vincent A. Hildebrand, 2011. "Portfolio Allocation In The Face Of A Means‐Tested Public Pension," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 57(3), pages 536-560, September.
    7. repec:eee:joecag:v:7:y:2016:i:c:p:17-29 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Emily Dabbs & Cagri Kumru, 2015. "How Well Does the Australian Aged Pension Provide Social Insurance?," Working Papers wp339, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    9. John Piggott & Renuka Sane, 2011. "The Impact on Residential Choice of the Family Home Exemption in Resource-Tested Transfer Programs," Working Papers 201112, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales.
    10. Alexandra Spicer & Olena Stavrunova & Susan Thorp, 2016. "How Portfolios Evolve after Retirement: Evidence from Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 92(297), pages 241-267, June.
    11. Fedor Iskhakov & Susan Thorp & Hazel Bateman, 2015. "Optimal Annuity Purchases for Australian Retirees," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 91(293), pages 139-154, June.
    12. George Kudrna & Alan D. Woodland, 2015. "Progressive Tax Changes to Superannuation in a Lifecycle Framework," CESifo Working Paper Series 5645, CESifo Group Munich.
    13. George Kudrna, 2015. "Means Testing of Public Pensions: The Case of Australia," Working Papers wp338, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

    More about this item


    means-tested age pension; homeownership; lifecycle model; portfolio choice;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H3 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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