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Working Papers

Financial independence

Juergen Jung and Chung Tran

We study the optimal progressivity of a personal income tax system in an environment where individuals are exposed to idiosyncratic shocks to health and labor productivity over the lifecycle. Our results, based on a dynamic general equilibrium model calibrated to the US economy, indicate that accounting for health risk substantially aects the social insur- ance/redistribution role of a progressive income tax system. When health risk is present but access to health insurance is limited, the optimal income tax system is more progressive in order to provide more social insurance/redistribution to unhealthy low income individuals. However, when more inclusive health insurance systems are considered, such as Medicare for all, then the optimal level of tax progressivity decreases signicantly. Importantly, when health expenditure risk is eliminated, the optimal income tax progressivity becomes more similar to the optimal progressivity level in previous studies using models with income risk only.


Hanming Fang and Jin Feng

A detailed overview of the current state of the Chinese Pension System, as well as its development, its problems and some ideas for future reforms.

Mother and daughter

Yi Chen and Hanming Fang

Family planning plays a central role in contemporary population policies. However, little is known about its long-term consequences in old age because of the identification challenge. In this study, we examine how family planning affects the quality of life of the Chinese elderly. The direction of the effect is theoretically unclear. On the one hand, having fewer children allows parents to reallocate more resources to themselves, improving their well-being. On the other hand, having fewer children also leads to less care and companionship from children in old age. To empirically probe the effect of family planning, we identify the causal impact by exploiting the provincial heterogeneity in implementing the “Later, Longer, Fewer” policies in the early 1970s. We find that the policies greatly reduced the number of children born to each couple by 0.85. Parents also receive less support from children in terms of living arrangements, inter vivos transfers, and emotional support. Finally, we find that family planning has drastically different effects on elderly parent's physical and mental well-being. Whereas parents who are more exposed to the family planning policies consume more and enjoy slightly better physical health status, they report more severe depression symptoms. Our study calls for greater attention to the mental health status of the Chinese elderly.

Aged care support

Marijan Jukic

Aged care residents, residential care developers and government policy-makers need accurate information on likelihood of main events in residential care (i.e. residents’ functional decline and death). Since 20 March 2008 Australian government subsidies for residential care have been based on detailed assessments of individual care needs, and this generated 1.5 million assessment records by 30 June 2015. Four levels are assessed for three types of need - aids to daily living, behavioural needs, and complex health care. Logistic regression models are used to derive mortality and transition probabilities from these data. Backwards derivation was used to estimate mean life expectancies from these models, and microsimulation used to model distributions around means. As there has been continuing drift in assessed care needs, the mortality and transition assumptions estimates are based on the most recent year of experience. A microsimulation model of aged care residents, with all residents at 30 June 2015 as the initial population, has been constructed.

Content elderly couple enjoying life

Bei Lu, John Piggott, and Bingwen Zheng

This chapter discusses the potential expansion of the role of the notional defined contribution (NDC) paradigm in the ongoing reforms of retirement provision in China. China has remarkably high nominal retirement coverage of its population, but issues of sustainability, equity, and governance are challenging and real. Further, while many broad policy guidelines are set by the central government, jurisdictions at provincial, city, and sometimes even district level have major control over implementation, covering administration, benefit rates, and other important retirement policy features.

Aged care support

Mi H., Fan XD., Lu B., Cai LM and Piggott J.

China, in common with many other countries in Asia, will confront rapidly increasing demand for formal Long-term Care (LTC) over coming decades. This paper uses a unique regional monthly database on utilization of comprehensive care in Qingdao, China, to estimate transition probabilities and compute duration of care, using Markov chain simulations. Duration of care estimates are then combined with price per unit of care to calculate the total cost of care for the disabled elderly. Results show that the transition probabilities from institutional care to home care are ten times higher than those in the opposite direction; the average support duration in the plan is about 53 months, including both home and institutional care, when admitted at the age of 60, and 44 months if admitted at the age of 85, with costs ranging from RMB 40-120,000 per recipient. The cost analysis suggests that this provision model is an affordable comprehensive care model for elderly Chinese.


Rafal Chomik and John Piggott

Demographic and technological changes are two megatrends set to transform labour markets around the world. These shifts are already under way and are expected to accelerate, particularly in East and South East Asia, which is home to the world’s oldest and fastest ageing societies and a region with an enviable pace of economic development. The literature on the nature and impacts of each trend is vast, but the study of the interactions between them is often incidental and rarely in the Asian setting. Yet demography, technology, structural change and economic development are all related. Rapid economic development seen in many parts of Asia is the product of beneficial demographic trends as well as technological catch-up to the production productivity frontier. And technological advancements in medicine have precipitated the increasing levels of life expectancy seen around the world. In turn, while healthier life expectancies raise the prospect of working longer, technological and structural change risk leaving older cohorts behind.


Elena Capatina, Michael Keane, Shiko Maruyama

This paper studies the effects of health on earnings dynamics and on consumption inequality over the life-cycle. We build and calibrate a life-cycle model with idiosyncratic health, earnings and survival risk where individuals make labor supply and asset accumulation decisions, adding two novel features. First, we model health as a complex multi-dimensional concept. We differentiate between functional health and underlying health risk, temporary vs. persistent health shocks, and predictable vs. unpredictable shocks. Second, we study the interactions between health and human capital accumulation (learning-by-doing). These features are important in allowing the model to capture the degree to which, and the pathways through which, health impacts earnings and consumption patterns. They are also very important in estimating the value of health insurance and social insurance. A key finding is that health shocks account for roughly half of the growth in offer wage inequality over the life cycle. Eliminating health shocks leads to a 5.5% decline in the variance of the present value of earnings across all individuals.

Keywords: Health, Income Risk, Precautionary Saving, Health Insurance, Welfare

Colleagues discussing ageing research

Zvi Eckstein, Michael Keane and Osnat Lifshitz

Comparing the 1935 and 1975 U.S. birth cohorts, wages of married women grew twice as fast as for married men, and the wage gap between married and single women turned from negative to positive. The employment rate of married women also increased sharply, while that of other groups remained quite stable. To better understand these diverse patterns we develop a lifecycle model incorporating individual and household decisions about education, employment, marriage/divorce and fertility. The model provides an excellent fit to wage and employment patterns, along with changes in education, marriage/divorce rates, and fertility. We assume fixed preferences, but allow for four exogenously changing factors: (i) mother’s education, health and taxes/transfers; (ii) marriage market opportunities and divorce costs; (iii) the wage structure and job offers; (iv) contraception technology. We quantify how each factor contributed to changes across cohorts. We find that factor (iii) was the most important force driving the increase in relative wages of married women, but that all four factors are important for explaining the many socio-economic changes that occurred in the past 50 years. Finally, we use the model to simulate a shift from joint to individual taxation. In a revenue neutral simulation, we predict this would increase employment of married women by 9% and the marriage rate by 8.1%.