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Hardcover | ISBN: 9780262041577 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 in | August 1996
Paperback | $28.00 Short | £19.95 | ISBN: 9780262517096 | 360 pp. | 6 x 9 in | January 2003

Can We Afford to Grow Older?


The United States Social Security fund is huge and in trouble. The United Kingdom has experimented with the voluntary contracting out of pensions to the private sector. Chile has privatized its public pension system. Australia has adopted a means-tested public pension system. Japan has the earliest retirement age of any advanced economy; it also has the highest rate of labor force participation by elderly men. Can We Afford to Grow Older? provides a comprehensive, up-to-date survey of the implications of population aging in these and other OECD countries relative to a range of specific interrelated issues—Social Security schemes, employer pensions, educational attainment, wage growth and distribution, economic productivity, consumption, savings, retirement, and health care—all within a realistic framework for modeling and discussing policy. International in scope, filled with rich institutional detail, and built on a solid technical foundation, this will be a standard reference on the economic consequences of aging.

Richard Disney adopts a "life-cycle" view of the world which recognizes that individuals often make plans with a forward-looking perspective across the stages of childhood, the peak of economic productivity, and retirement. He stresses the existence of overlapping generations and the reality of generational transactions (which include tax and transfer systems, bequests, and charity to the elderly). And he assumes intertemporal optimization as a useful unifying basis for analyzing social security, private pension schemes, lifetime labor-supply decisions, consumption, and saving.

Among the surprising conclusions that emerge is that there is no "crisis of aging"—no adverse effect of aging on productivity. And although there are serious crises in pay-as-you-go social insurance programs and in health care, these have little to do with aging. Moreover, the shift in private provision plans away from traditional defined- benefit plans will continue, along with an interest in privatized pensions instead of social security.

About the Author

Richard Disney is Professor of Economics at the University of Nottingham and Research Fellow at the Institute of Fiscal Studies, London.


"Can We Afford to Grow Older? is an impressive book which makes a major contribution toward the consolidation of our knowledge and understanding the economic aspects of what appears to be inevitable and probably irreversible demographic change. Covering a wide geographic spectrum across industrialized nations, it will appeal to graduate level study of the economics of aging and will appeal to all economists with a serious interest in this question."
William J. Serow, Director, Center for the Study of Population,and Professor of Economics, Florida State University