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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 19 No. 2 (Spring 2005)

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Structural Reform of Social Security

Article Citation

Feldstein, Martin. 2005. "Structural Reform of Social Security." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(2): 33-55.

DOI: 10.1257/0895330054048731

Abstract

Governments around the world have enacted or are currently considering fundamental structural reforms of their Social Security pension programs. The key feature in these reforms is a shift from a pure pay-as-you-go tax-financed system, in which taxes on current workers are primarily distributed to current retirees, to a mixed system that combines pay-as-you-go benefits with investment-based personal retirement accounts. This paper discusses how such a mixed system could work in practice and how the transition to such a change could be achieved. It then analyzes the economic gains that would result from shifting to a mixed system. I turn next to the three problems that critics raise about any investment-based plan: administrative costs, risk, and income distribution. Finally, I comment on some of the ad hoc proposals for dealing with the financial problem of Social Security without shifting to an investment-based system.

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Feldstein, Martin

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