, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 375-401
Date: 09 Jun 2011

Myopia and pensions in general equilibrium

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Abstract

The US social security tax rate has doubled in the last half century. Does the degree of myopic behavior that we observe in the US justify the size of the social security program? To study this question we build a computable general equilibrium model that is composed of life-cycle permanent-income consumers who save optimally and “hand-to-mouth” consumers who just consume their disposable income. Our model is a continuous-time, general equilibrium extension of the model by Cremer et al. (Int Tax Public Financ 15(5):547–562, 2008), though we abstract from the redistributive function of social security to focus on myopia. Retirement is a choice variable in our model and the social security program is designed to mimic the US program in which the annuity value of benefits increases with the retirement age. Also, we allow for delayed claiming beyond the date of retirement. The model matches a variety of important data targets relating to saving and retirement. We find that small reductions in the social security tax rate provide significant welfare gains to both groups of consumers.