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Would a Privatized Social Security System Really Pay a Higher Rate of Return?


  • John Geanakoplos
  • Olivia S. Mitchell
  • Stephen P. Zeldes


As the U.S. Social Security system has matured, the rate of return received by participants has fallen. In the coming years, around the time the Baby Boom generation retires, the system will experience a budget shortfall. Many advocates of reform suggest that an answer to this problem is to rivatize Social Security. Our goal in this paper is to challenge the following popular argument: a)projected returns to Social Security are low relative to expected returns on stocks and bonds, and therefore b) everyone would receive higher returns and be better off if we moved to a privatized system where individuals could directly invest their contributions in sotcks and bonds.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • John Geanakoplos & Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Zeldes, "undated". "Would a Privatized Social Security System Really Pay a Higher Rate of Return?," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-6, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:pennpr:98-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olivia Mitchell & Flávio Ataliba F. D. Barreto, 1997. "After Chile, What? Second-Round Social Security Reforms in Latin America," Revista de Analisis Economico – Economic Analysis Review, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines, vol. 12(2), pages 3-36, June.
    2. John Geanakoplos & Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Zeldes, "undated". "Social Security Money's Worth," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-20, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    3. Arthur B. Kennickell & Martha Starr-McCluer & Annika E. Sunden, 1997. "Family finances in the U.S.: recent evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-24.
    4. Martin Feldstein, 1997. "Transition to a Fully Funded Pension System: Five Economic Issues," NBER Working Papers 6149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Mitchell, Olivia S & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1996. "Social Security Privatization: A Structure for Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(2), pages 363-367, May.
    6. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
    7. 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.
    8. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1998. "Social security reform in Latin America," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 15-18.
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    Cited by:

    1. Attanasio, Orazio & Kitao, Sagiri & Violante, Giovanni L., 2007. "Global demographic trends and social security reform," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 144-198, January.
    2. Arza, Camila, 2008. "The Limits of Pension Privatization: Lessons from Argentine Experience," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 2696-2712, December.
    3. Christine Mayrhuber & Thomas Url, 2000. "Redistribution and Contribution Equivalence Austrian Old Age Security," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 73(9), pages 547-557, September.
    4. Bossi, Luca, 2008. "Intergenerational risk shifting through social security and bailout politics," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(7), pages 2240-2268, July.
    5. Börsch-Supan, A. & Härtl, K. & Leite, D.N., 2016. "Social Security and Public Insurance," Handbook of the Economics of Population Aging, Elsevier.
    6. Elder, Erick & Holland, Larry, 2000. "Social Security reform: the effect of investing in equities," Financial Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 93-106, 00.
    7. Nikola Altiparmakov, 2013. "Is There An Alternative To The Pay-As-You-Go Pension System In Serbia?," Economic Annals, Faculty of Economics, University of Belgrade, vol. 58(198), pages 89-114, July - Se.
    8. Binswanger, Johannes, 2007. "Risk management of pensions from the perspective of loss aversion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(3-4), pages 641-667, April.
    9. repec:eee:hapoch:v1_179 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Alonso-García, J. & Devolder, P., 2016. "Optimal mix between pay-as-you-go and funding for DC pension schemes in an overlapping generations model," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 224-236.
    11. Kubicek, Jan, 2005. "Contribution rates to funded pension systems in the new member countries," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 266-280, June.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions


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