Quasi-hyperbolic discounting and social security systems

Mordechai E. Schwarz, Eytan Sheshinski

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Hyperbolic discounting has become a common assumption for modeling bounded rationality with respect to individual savings decisions. We examine the effects of hyperbolic discounting on the comparison of alternative social security systems. We show that this form of bounded rationality breaks the equivalence between funded and pay-as-you-go (PAYG) systems established in Sheshinski and Weiss [Sheshinski, E., Weiss, Y., 1981. Uncertainty and optimal social security. Quarterly Journal of Economics 95, 189-206]. Intergenerational transfers within a PAYG economy are usually secured by the social security system and independent of longevity, whereas this is not the case for the funded economy. The savings level under hyperbolic discounting is lower than under exponential discounting [Laibson et al., 1998], but the ratio between the savings level under hyperbolic discounting within a funded economy and a PAYG economy depends on the effectiveness of the commitment devices. It is shown that if individuals are hyperbolic discounters, then in a PAYG economy any change in the mandated level of intergenerational transfers is neutralized by individuals' voluntary bequests. This does not apply to a funded system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1247-1262
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Funded
  • Hyperbolic discounting
  • Pay As You Go
  • Pension
  • Social security


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