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Rethinking Saving Incentives

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  • B. Douglas Bernheim

Abstract

March 1996 This paper undertakes a review of the existing academic work on tax incentives and personal saving. Its central conclusions are as follows. First, the traditional life cycle hypothesis has had an excessive influence on the design and conceptualization of empirical investigations concerning taxation and saving. Second, there is little reason to believe that households increase their saving significantly in response to a generic increase in the after-tax rate of return. Third, the literature on the relation between Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and personal saving is inconclusive. Fourth, one can be moderately confident that, all else equal, eligibility for a 401(k) plan significantly stimulates personal saving. Fifth, tax incentives probably have important effects on personal saving through "third party" or institutional channels. Sixth, there is, overall, considerable uncertainty about the effects of policies designed to promote saving, particularly in cases where these policies have the potential to induce significant institutional change (such as a consumption tax).

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  • B. Douglas Bernheim, 1996. "Rethinking Saving Incentives," Working Papers 96009, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:stanec:96009
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    Cited by:

    1. Gary V. Engelhardt, 2000. "Have 401(k)s Raised Household Saving? Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 33, McMaster University.
    2. Orazio P. Attanasio & Susann Rohwedder, 2003. "Pension Wealth and Household Saving: Evidence from Pension Reforms in the United Kingdom," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1499-1521, December.
    3. Douglas W. Elmendorf, "undated". "The Effect of Interest-Rate Changes on Household Saving and Consumption: A Survey," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1996-27, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1996. "The Illusory Effects of Saving Incentives on Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 113-138, Fall.
    5. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "The Power of Suggestion: Inertia in 401(k) Participation and Savings Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187.
    6. B. Douglas Bernheim & Daniel M. Garrett & Dean M. Maki, 1997. "Education and Saving: The Long-Term Effects of High School Financial Curriculum Mandates," Working Papers 97012, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    7. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan S. Skinner, 1996. "Assessing the Effectiveness of Saving Incentives," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 10(4), pages 73-90, Fall.
    8. Patrick J. Bayer & B. Douglas Bernheim & John Karl Scholz, 2009. "The Effects Of Financial Education In The Workplace: Evidence From A Survey Of Employers," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(4), pages 605-624, October.
    9. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1996. "The Effects of Tax-Based Saving Incentives On Saving and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 5759, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, "undated". "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-8, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    11. Eric M. Engen & William G. Gale, 2000. "The Effects of 401(k) Plans on Household Wealth: Differences Across Earnings Groups," NBER Working Papers 8032, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Tim Besley, 2001. "From micro to macro: public policies and aggregate economic performance," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 22(3), pages 357-374, September.
    13. Orazio P. Attanasio & Thomas DeLeire, 2002. "The Effect Of Individual Retirement Accounts On Household Consumption And National Saving," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(6), pages 504-538, July.
    14. B. Douglas Bernheim & Daniel M. Garrett, 1996. "The Determinants and Consequences of Financial Education in the Workplace: Evidence from a Survey of Households," NBER Working Papers 5667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Mark Schreiner & Michael Sherraden & Margaret Clancy & Lissa Johnson & Jami Curley & Min Zhan & Michal Grinstein-Weiss, 2001. "Asset accumulation in low-resource households: evidence from individual development accounts," Proceedings 799, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    16. Bernheim, B. Douglas & Garrett, Daniel M. & Maki, Dean M., 2001. "Education and saving:: The long-term effects of high school financial curriculum mandates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 435-465.
    17. Margaret Clancy & Michal Grinstein-Weiss & Mark Schreiner, 2001. "Financial Education and Savings Outcomes in Individual Development Accounts," HEW 0108001, EconWPA, revised 27 Dec 2001.
    18. Beverly, Sondra G. & Sherraden, Michael, 1999. "Institutional determinants of saving: implications for low-income households and public policy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 457-473.

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