Who wins and who loses? Public transfer accounts for US generations born 1850 to 2090

Antoine Bommier, Université Toulouse 1 Sciences Sociales
Ronald Lee, University of California, Berkeley
Tim Miller, University of California, Berkeley
Stephane Zuber, Ecole Normale Supérieure

Public transfer programs in industrial nations have massive long term fiscal imbalances, and apparently permit the elderly to benefit through pension and health care programs at the cost of the young and future generations. However, the intergenerational picture is turned upside down when public education is included in generational accounts along with pensions and health care. We calculate the net present value (NPV) of benefits received minus taxes paid for US generations born 1850 to 2090, and find that all generations born from 1950 to 2050 are net gainers, while the many of today’s old people are net losers. Windfall gains for early generations when Social Security and Medicare started up partially offset windfall losses when public education was started, roughly consistent with the Becker-Murphy theory.

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Presented in Session 24: Intergenerational relations in the context of population ageing