Wednesday, November 19, 2014

New papers from the Social Science Research Network

"Social Security in an Analytically Tractable Overlapping Generations Model with Aggregate and Idiosyncratic Risk."
Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy Discussion Paper No. 290-14

DANIEL HARENBERG, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich - CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research at ETH Zurich
ALEXANDER LUDWIG, Goethe University Frankfurt - Research Center SAFE, University of Cologne - Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences

When markets are incomplete, social security can partially insure against idiosyncratic and aggregate risks. We incorporate both risks into an analytically tractable model with two overlapping generations and demonstrate that they interact over the life-cycle. The interactions appear even though the two risks are orthogonal and they amplify the welfare consequences of introducing social security. On the one hand, the interactions increase the welfare benefits from insurance. On the other hand, they can in- or decrease the welfare costs from crowding out of capital formation. This ambiguous effect on crowding out means that the net effect of these two channels is positive, hence the interactions of risks increase the total welfare benefits of social security.

"Employment-Based Retirement Plan Participation: Geographic Differences and Trends, 2013"
EBRI Issue Brief, No. 405 (October 2014)

CRAIG COPELAND, Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)

This paper examines the level of participation by workers in public- and private-sector, employment-based pension or retirement plans, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s March 2014 Current Population Survey (CPS), the most recent data currently available. It begins with an overview of retirement plan types and participation in these types of plans and describes the data used in this study, along with their relative strengths and weaknesses. From these data, results on participation in employment-based retirement plans are analyzed for 2013 across various worker and employer characteristics. The report then explores retirement plan participation across U.S. geographical regions, including state-by-state comparisons, as well as comparisons by certain consolidated statistical areas (CSAs). In addition, trends from 1987-2013 in employment-based retirement plan participation are presented across many of the same worker and employer characteristics that are used for 2013. Furthermore, an accounting of the number of individuals who worked for employers that did not sponsor a plan and of workers who did not participate in a plan in 2013 is provided by various demographic and employer characteristics. The percentage of workers participating in an employment-based retirement plan increased in 2013, increasing for the first time since 2010 among all workers and private-sector workers. The retirement plan participation level depends on the type of worker being considered: Among all American workers in 2013, 51.3 percent worked for an employer or union that sponsored a retirement plan (the sponsorship rate), while 40.8 percent participated in a plan. Among wage and salary workers ages 21-64, the sponsorship rate increased to 56.0 percent, and the portion participating increased to 45.8 percent. Among full-time, full-year wage and salary workers ages 21-64, the sponsorship rate was 62.3 percent and 54.5 percent of the workers participated in a retirement plan. Almost 74 percent of wage and salary public-sector workers participated in an employment-based retirement plan. Being white or having attained a higher educational level were also associated with higher probabilities of participating in a retirement plan. Of the 67.9 million wage and salary workers who worked for an employer who did not sponsor a plan, 17.9 million (26.4 percent) were ages 25 or younger or 65 or older. Almost 30 million (43.6 percent) were not full-time, full-year workers, and 29.2 million (43.0 percent) had annual earnings of less than $20,000. Furthermore, 39.3 million (57.8 percent) worked for employers with less than 100 employees. Workers at large employers were far more likely to participate than those at smaller firms.

"Distributional Effects of Means Testing Social Security: An Exploratory Analysis"
Michigan Retirement Research Center Working Paper No. 2014-306

ALAN L. GUSTMAN, Dartmouth College - Department of Economics, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
THOMAS L. STEINMEIER, Texas Tech University - Department of Economics and Geography
NAHID TABATABAI, Dartmouth College - Department of Economics

This paper examines the distributional implications of introducing additional means testing of Social Security benefits where proceeds are used to help balance Social Security’s finances. Benefits of the top quarter of households ranked according to the relevant measure of means are reduced using a modified version of the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The replacement rate in the first bracket of the benefit formula, determining the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), would be reduced from 90 percent to 40 percent of Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME).
Four measures of means are considered: total wealth; an annualized measure of AIME; the wealth value of pensions; and a measure of average indexed W2 earnings. The empirical analysis, based on data from the Health and Retirement Study, starts with a baseline benefit for each household, calculated as the product of the average benefit-tax ratio under the current system, multiplied by the taxes paid by the household.
These means tests would reduce total household benefits by 7 to 9 percentage points, amounting to 15.4 to 16.4 percent of the benefits of affected workers at baseline. We find that the basis for means testing Social Security makes a substantial difference as to which households have their benefits reduced, and that different means tests may have different effects on the benefits of families in similar circumstance. We also find that the measure of means used to evaluate the effects of a means test makes a considerable difference as to how one would view the effects of the means test on the distribution of benefits.

"Life-Cycle Consumption, Asset Allocation, and Pension Design Under Non-Standard Preferences"

STEFAN ZIMMERMANN, University of Vienna - Faculty of Business, Economics, and Statistics

This paper uses a behavioral life-cycle model to analyze different pension schemes when people display non-standard consumption preferences and income-heterogeneity. Retirement resources depend on public pension benefits and individual savings accumulated over working life. Individual savings crucially depend on the choice between low-risk and high-risk assets, because there is a sizable return gap. Mainstream economic models do not adequately capture peoples’ life-cycle asset allocation patterns, that is, their investment in safe and risky assets. The proposed model makes a better prediction. I investigate whether a transition towards a funded pension scheme is desirable, and whether different income classes could benefit from different pension schemes. The rationale is that a non-funded pension component provides better downward risk protection for the low-income earners, whereas a funded pension component is more appealing to rent-seeking, high-income earners. Simulation results reveal that a funded pension scheme is most promising for all income classes — considering reasonable demographic and financial market projections for Germany.

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