SEDAP: Research Paper Abstracts (1999)

  1. Population Aging and Its Economic Costs: A Survey of the Issues and Evidence
    Frank T. Denton and Byron G. Spencer
  2. The aging of the population is expected to result in substantial increases in the costs of maintaining health care and pension programs, and that is a source of widespread concern. However, a proper assessment requires that attention be given to all categories of government expenditure, including education and others associated with younger age groups, and not just those associated with the older population. It requires also that privately provided goods and services be considered, since their costs must be charged against the same national income as publicly provided ones. Beyond that, it is important to recognize that population change affects not only the demand side of the economy, but also the supply side -- the economy's productive capacity.

    An important conclusion is that while other influences will no doubt play a role, demographic effects by themselves are likely to cause government expenditure (all categories, all levels of government combined) to increase by no more than the rate of growth of the population, and by less than the rate of growth of the gross domestic product. Taking public and private costs together, and assigning appropriate weights to different age groups, the overall "dependency ratio" can be expected to remain at its current low level for another decade and a half or two decades, and then to rise as the baby boom generation retires in large numbers. However, the projected future ratio never reaches the levels of the 1950s and 1960s. Although the overall "burden" of population aging is manageable, major adjustments will be required in the coming decades, especially in the area of federal/provincial cost sharing. For the most part, though, the effects of population aging are predictable, slow, and some time off.

  3. How Much Help Is Exchanged in Families? Towards an Understanding of Discrepant Research Findings
    Carolyn J. Rosenthal and Leroy O. Stone
  4. Responding to claims that contemporary families had abandoned their elderly members, gerontologists over the past 30 years have provided extensive documentation of intergenerational familial support. These studies have been lodged within conceptual frameworks of the modified extended family, intergenerational solidarity, and, more recently, intergenerational equity. By and large, studies claim to have found extensive levels of support. Closer examination of findings from various studies, however, reveals widely discrepant findings in terms of amounts of help given to and received by older family members. This paper examines the findings from four representative Canadian and American studies spanning four decades. Factors contributing to discrepant findings are identified at both methodological and conceptual levels, and implications for future research are discussed.

  5. Did Tax Flattening Affect RRSP Contributions?
    Michael R. Veall
  6. In 1988, marginal personal income tax rates changed in Canada, for some individuals by reasonably substantial amounts. This note examines a large sample of tax-filer data and finds little convincing evidence of any effect on contributions to Registered Retirement Saving Plans (RRSPs).

  7. Families as Care_Providers versus Care-Managers? Gender and Type of Care in a Sample of Employed Canadians
    Carolyn J. Rosenthal and Anne Martin-Matthews
  8. This article extends previous research by examining care management as a distinct type of informal care. Using data drawn from a large Canadian study of work and family, the research is based on a study of a sub-sample of women (1068) and men (805) who were employed full-time and who had provided help to an elderly relative during the six month period preceding the interview. Results indicate that managerial care is a meaningful construct that denotes a distinct type of care. Most commonly, individuals combine managerial care with other types of assistance. Managerial care is a very common activity among caregivers and usually involves aspects of care other than arranging for formal services. Managerial care has an adverse impact on job costs and personal costs, and, among women, is associated with greater stress.

  9. Alternatives for Raising Living Standards
    William Scarth
  10. Given the fundamental goal of raising living standards in the longer term, much attention is paid to policies that can be expected to increase national saving. With respect to private saving, the mechanism is tax reform - a lower tax on interest income. The basic problem with this approach is that, for a given size of government, some other tax or transfer must be adjusted to finance the interest-tax cut. This fact may make it difficult to ensure that those with only labour income will share in the spoils. An alternative is to concentrate on public saving. Ultimately, deficit reduction makes possible lower taxes and/or higher transfer payments across the board. This reasoning suggests that debt reduction may be the more equitable government initiative. But there are other options such as investing in human capital and altering the population growth rate through immigration policy.

    The latter option is pursued in this paper. According to the standard neoclassical growth model, a lower population growth rate raises steady-state living standards, but things are more complicated in an optimization-based overlapping-generations context. This paper extends Blanchard's constant- planning-horizon model of disjoint agents to allow for retirement, a subset of the population that remains liquidity constrained, and various taxes and transfers - in a small open-economy setting. Tax reform, debt reduction and population growth policies are compared in an internally consistent manner. For each policy, both the immediate and steady-state effects are derived, and the present value of the entire time path for consumption between these two end-points is also analyzed (for all three policy initiatives). A calibrated version of the model is used to identify policy combinations that can deliver long-term gain without short-term pain, and without problems for the hand- to-mouth subset of the population.

  11. Transitions to Retirement: Determinants of Age of Social Security Take Up
    Emile Tompa
  12. Prior to 1987, retirement benefits under the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) were payable only at age 65. Amendments to the CPP in 1987 allowed benefits to be claimed at any time between the ages of 60 and 70, with actuarial adjustments for early or late take up. The focus of this paper is the health and welfare implications of these flexible retirement provisions, but the paper also investigates the labour-market characteristics of individuals prior to exit. Characteristics such as health status, demographics, employment prospects, labour-force attachment, and income sources are investigated in order to develop a profile of individuals who take up early.

    The principal contribution of this paper is that it investigates the dynamics of transition from labour force to retirement in the Canadian context. Investigating the factors influencing the retirement decision has been a popular research agenda in the U.S. labour economics and public finance literature, but is not frequently addressed in the Canadian context due to the lack of longitudinal data sets. This paper employs a large longitudinal data set from Statistics Canada called the Longitudinal Administrative Databank (LAD) to examine the factors influencing the age at which an individual begins to draw benefits from the CPP. The LAD is a longitudinal sample of Canadians that spans the period from 1982 to 1994.

    The results of the analysis indicate that income amounts from various sources have a significant impact on take up, as do family characteristics and markers of health status. Unattached individuals are less likely to exit to retired-worker benefits at each age than are married individuals, though the larger the family size, the less likely is exit. It appears that early exit to retired-worker benefits is more likely for: 1) low labour income earners and individuals currently out of the labour force, 2) unemployed individuals, 3) individuals receiving a private pension, and 4) individuals with spouses who are retired. There is also a significant secular trend towards early exit. The probability of exit to disability benefits is more likely for: 1) low labour income earners, 2) individuals with a disability deduction in the current year, and 3) individuals who pay union or professional dues.

    Overall, it appears that many individuals who pick up retired-worker benefits prior to age 65 are individuals who have higher lifetime earnings, have already exited their career jobs, are receiving private pensions, and are making a joint retirement decision with their spouse. There are also some individuals who cycle through unemployment benefits prior to pick up. These individuals may be doing so voluntarily or involuntarily due to job displacement. For men, there is indication that lack of job prospects is an incentive for exit.

  13. Health and Individual and Community Characteristics: A Research Protocol
    François Béland, Steve Birch, and Greg Stoddart
  14. Population health policies tend to target communities to enhance the health status of individuals. However, little is known about the effects of community or socio-economic environmental variables on individual health characteristics and behaviour patterns. This paper outlines procedures designed to examine the contribution of context in producing health.

  15. Disability Related Sources of Income and Expenses: An Examination Among the Elderly in Canada
    Parminder Raina, Steven Dukeshire, Margaret Denton, Larry W. Chambers, Andria Scanlan, Amiram Gafni, Susan French, Anju Joshi, and Carolyn Rosenthal
  16. The primary purpose of this paper is to examine disability-related sources of income and expenses among high and low income older Canadians. Specifically, the paper attempts to answer three questions: Do low and high income seniors experience disability equally? Do low and high income seniors incur equal disability- related non-reimbursed expenses? And, Do low and high income seniors receive equal disability-related pensions and tax credits?

    The analysis is based on the Health and Activity Limitation Surveys of 1986 and 1991. Both surveys were cross-sectional, designed to gather information on disabilities and their impact on daily living. Among the seniors (those 65 and over), between 10.3% (men in 1986) and 23.2% (women in 1991) were classified as low income and about 40% reporting having at least one disability, compared to one-quarter of women and men of all ages. The analysis indicates that low income seniors are disadvantaged in that they experience more disability, incur more non-reimbursed expenses, and receive less in terms of disability- related pensions and credits than do high income seniors. It thus appears that interventions should be policy based rather than individual based.

  17. The Impact of Rising 401(k) Pension Coverage on Future Pension Income
    William E. Even and David A. Macpherson
  18. Using data from the 1992 Health and Retirement Survey and the 1992 Survey of Consumer Finances, this study compares the level of benefits in 401(k), non-401(k) defined contribution (DC), and defined benefit (DB) plans. Based on current pension information regarding pension contribution rates or benefit formulas, it is shown that a shift to 401(k) plans will reduce the average level of pension benefits for low income workers but have relatively small effects on middle and high income workers. A shift to 401(k) plans would also increase the variance of benefits among low income workers, though the effect would be negligible for middle and high income workers.

  19. Income Inequality as a Canadian Cohort Ages: An Analysis of the Later Life Course
    Steven G. Prus
  20. At each stage of the life course, people experience different economic situations. Retired people, for example, draw the majority of their incomes from the pension system rather than the labour market. Using Survey of Consumer Finances cross-sectional data from 1973 to 1996, this paper examines Canadian trends in income inequality over the middle and later stages of the life course of a synthetic cohort born between 1922 and 1926. Three hypotheses regarding changes in the level of income inequality during later life are tested: income is 1) distributed more equally; 2) distributed about the same; or 3) distributed less equally, in the retirement years than in the working years.

    Using Gini coefficients, the findings show that income inequality decreases within a cohort as it grows old; that is, the Canadian retirement income system smooths out (levels) the distribution of income in later life. The observed decrease in inequality corresponds with a decrease in income from earnings and an increase in dependency on state benefits. The progressive nature of public pension programs in Canada increases the relative income share and the average income of the poorest seniors. Moreover, Canada exhibits a more equal distribution of income in old age compared to countries with similar old-age welfare systems, such as the United States. Any reform toward privatization of the retirement income system in Canada will jeopardize the ability of the state to reshape income inequalities in later life.

Return to SEDAP Home Page.
Last revised: March 6, 2000.