Timm Boenke, Markus M. Grabka, Carsten Schroeder, Edward Wolff, 10 May 2017

International comparisons of private household wealth place the US among the richest countries, whereas German households appear rather poor. This column argues that as these rankings are based on average household net wealth, they do not tell the whole story. An augmented wealth approach that adds social security wealth to net wealth reduces wealth inequalities in both countries and the wealth gap between the two. 

Don Fullerton, Nirupama Rao, 03 May 2017

In the 2012 US presidential election, Mitt Romney famously asserted that 47% of the population were long-term dependents of the government – ‘takers’, not ‘givers’ to the system. This column examines this claim using long-spanning household-level data. Even though many households find themselves not paying tax or receiving public benefits in at least some years, only a small fraction consistently pay no tax or consistently receive public transfers.

Frank Caliendo, Maria Casanova, Aspen Gorry, Sita Nataraj Slavov, 16 November 2016

Not knowing when you are going to retire can make it hard to plan both savings and consumption in old age. This column examines how much uncertainty people face over their retirement and how costly this is as they attempt to make optimal saving plans. It argues that current structure of the Social Security retirement and disability programmes in the US does not provide much insurance against this uncertainty.

Harun Onder, Pierre Pestieau, 20 May 2014

The world’s population is ageing, due to both increasing longevity and decreasing fertility. This column shows that the net effect of ageing on capital accumulation (and therefore growth) depends on which of these two factors dominates, and also on the structure of the pension system. Under a pension system with defined contributions, a reduction in fertility induces adjustments in savings and working life that unambiguously increase capital per worker.

José González-Páramo, Ángel Melguizo, 06 February 2013

In spite of its policy relevance, academics and policymakers cannot agree on who bears the brunt of a tax on labour. This column uses meta-regression techniques to argue that economic institutions, the tax wedge definition, and the time horizon are crucial in determining who actually pays. Results based on 52 empirical papers suggest that in the long run, workers bear between two thirds of the tax burden in Continental and Anglo-Saxon economies, and nearly 90% in Nordic ones.

Gary Hufbauer, Kati Suominen, 13 October 2010

The global crisis has rocked people’s faith in globalisation. This column introduces a new book arguing that, despite taking a step back, globalisation is one of the most travelled routes the world has known for spreading growth and prosperity. It provides policy recommendations for renovating that road dealing with the WTO, social security, global imbalances, and foreign direct investment.

Naren Prasad, Megan Gerecke, 10 October 2010

Financial crises, such as that of 2008-2009, cause GDP to decline, trade to shrink, unemployment to rise, and social problems to increase. What is the link between financial crises and social security spending? This column examines the trends in social security spending in the aftermath of a financial crisis, advising that now is the time for developing countries to expand their social spending.

Renata Bottazzi, Tullio Jappelli, Mario Padula, 16 September 2009

Pensions reforms are shifting retirement burdens onto private households. How will they respond? This column uses Italian data to show that households better informed about their future entitlements save more for retirement, but private wealth increases considerably less than one-for-one with the social security decreases.

Mariacristina De Nardi, Eric French, John Jones, 14 February 2009

The risks of living long and facing high medical expenses go a long way toward explaining elderly persons’ saving decisions. This column shows that the elderly, especially those with high lifetime incomes, keep large asset holdings to address these health concerns. Such behaviour is particularly strong in the US.

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