Welfare and Generational Equity in Sustainable Unfunded Pension Systems

48 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2009 Last revised: 15 Aug 2010

See all articles by Alan J. Auerbach

Alan J. Auerbach

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Ronald D. Lee

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Demography; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: January 2009

Abstract

We evaluate several actual and hypothetical sustainable PAYGO pension structures, including: (1) versions of the US Social Security system with annual adjustments of taxes or benefits to maintain fiscal balance; (2) Sweden's Notional Defined Contribution system and several variants developed to improve fiscal stability; and (3) the German system, which also includes annual adjustments to maintain fiscal balance. For each system, we present descriptive measures of uncertainty in representative outcomes for a typical generation and across generations. We then estimate expected utility for generations based on simplifying assumptions and incorporate these expected utility calculations in an overall social welfare measure. Using a horizontal equity index, we also compare the different systems' performance in terms of how neighboring generations are treated.While the actual Swedish system smoothes stochastic fluctuations more than any other and produces the highest degree of horizontal equity, it does so by accumulating a buffer stock of assets that alleviates the need for frequent adjustments. In terms of social welfare, this accumulation of assets leads to a lower average rate of return that more than offsets the benefits of risk reduction, leaving systems with more frequent adjustments that spread risks broadly among generations as those most preferred.

Suggested Citation

Auerbach, Alan Jeffrey and Lee, Ronald D., Welfare and Generational Equity in Sustainable Unfunded Pension Systems (January 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w14682. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1335707

Alan Jeffrey Auerbach (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

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Germany

Ronald D. Lee

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Demography ( email )

2232 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720-2120
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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