Department of Economics and Business Economics

Reference-dependent preferences, time inconsistency, and pay-as-you-go pensions

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The classic Aaron–Samuelson result argues that pay-as-you-go (PAYG) pension schemes cannot coexist with higher-return, private, retirement-saving schemes. The ensuing literature shows if agents voluntarily undersave for retirement due to myopia or time-inconsistency, then a paternalistic, rationale for PAYG pensions arises only if voluntary retirement saving is fully crowded out because of a binding borrowing constraint. This paper generalizes the discussion to the reference-dependent utility setup of Kőszegi and Rabin (2009) where undersaving happens naturally. No borrowing constraint is imposed. We show it is possible to offer a non-paternalistic, welfare rationale for return-dominated, PAYG pensions to coexist with private, retirement saving.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomic Inquiry
Pages (from-to)1008-1030
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Economic Inquiry published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Western Economic Association International.

    Research areas

  • dynamic efficiency, Kőszegi–Rabin, pensions, reference-dependence

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