Monday, January 31, 2011

New papers from the NBER

The National Bureau of Economic Research has released several pensions-related working papers:

Social Security and Retirement around the World: Historical Trends in Mortality and Health, Employment, and Disability Insurance Participation and Reforms - Introduction and Summary by Kevin S. Milligan, David A. Wise - #16719 (AG)

Abstract: This is the introduction and summary to the fifth phase of an ongoing project on Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World. The first phase described the retirement incentives inherent in plan provisions and documented the strong relationship across countries between social security incentives to retire and the proportion of older persons out of the labor force. The second phase documented the large effects that changing plan provisions would have on the labor force participation of older workers. The third phase demonstrated the consequent fiscal implications that extending labor force participation would have on net program costs--reducing government social security benefit payments and increasing government tax revenues. The fourth phase presented analyses of the relationship between the labor force participation of older persons and the labor force participation of younger persons in twelve countries. We found no evidence that increasing the employment of older persons will reduce the employment opportunities of youth and no evidence that increasing the employment of older persons will increase the unemployment of youth.

This phase is intended to set the stage for and inform future more formal analysis of disability insurance programs, with this key question: Given health status, to what extent are the differences in LFP across countries determined by the provisions of disability insurance programs? Here we first consider changes in mortality over time and in particular the relationship between mortality and labor force participation, thinking of mortality as one indicator of health that is comparable across countries and over time in the same country. We then consider how mortality is related to other indicators of health status, in particular self-assessed health and then how trends in DI participation are related to changes in health. Finally we consider the effect on disability insurance participation of "natural experiments" in which the disability insurance reforms were not prompted by changes in health status or by changes in the employment circumstances of older workers. We find that these "exogenous" reforms can have a very large effect on the labor force participation of older workers.

Behavioral Economics Perspectives on Public Sector Pension Plans by John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, Brigitte C. Madrian - #16728 (AG)

Abstract: We describe the pension plan features of the states and the largest cities and counties in the U.S. Unlike in the private sector, defined benefit (DB) pensions are still the norm in the public sector. However, a few jurisdictions have shifted towards defined contribution (DC) plans as their primary savings plan, and fiscal pressures are likely to generate more movement in this direction. Holding fixed a public employee's work and salary history, we show that DB retirement income replacement ratios vary greatly across jurisdictions. This creates large variation in workers' need to save for retirement in other accounts. There is also substantial heterogeneity across jurisdictions in the savings generated in primary DC plans because of differences in the level of mandatory employer and employee contributions. One notable difference between public and private sector DC plans is that public sector primary DC plans are characterized by required employee or employer contributions (or both), whereas private sector plans largely feature voluntary employee contributions that are supplemented by an employer match. We conclude by applying lessons from savings behavior in private sector savings plans to the design of public sector plans.

How Financial Literacy and Impatience Shape Retirement Wealth and Investment Behaviors by Justine S. Hastings, Olivia S. Mitchell - #16740 (AG LS)

Abstract: Two competing explanations for why consumers have trouble with financial decisions are gaining momentum. One is that people are financially illiterate since they lack understanding of simple economic concepts and cannot carry out computations such as computing compound interest, which could cause them to make suboptimal financial decisions. A second is that impatience or present-bias might explain suboptimal financial decisions. That is, some people persistently choose immediate gratification instead of taking advantage of larger long-term payoffs.    We use experimental evidence from Chile to explore how these factors appear related to poor financial decisions. Our results show that our measure of impatience is a strong predictor of wealth and investment in health. Financial literacy is also correlated with wealth though it appears to be a weaker predictor of sensitivity to framing in investment decisions. Policymakers interested in enhancing retirement wellbeing would do well to consider the importance of these factors.




No comments: