Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population


Vol. 1 No. 1

Spring 1999

web site --
editor: Deb Fretz -

The purpose of the SEDAP Bulletin is to provide a digest of the major research results of the SEDAP program. SEDAP (Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population) is a multidisciplinary research program studying a wide range of aging-related issues and is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The funding, which lasts for five years, started in January 1999. SEDAP is centred at McMaster University and involves researchers from that institution as well as from the University of British Columbia, Université de Montréal, Queen's and the University of Toronto.

I. SEDAP Research Papers

SEDAP Research Papers are available on the SEDAP web site at no cost. Paper copies may be obtained at nominal charge by contacting Mrs. Gail Kalika, Department of Economics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4M4, or by e-mail --

SEDAP Research Paper No. 1:

Economic Costs of Population Aging: A Survey of the Issues and Evidence

Frank T. Denton (Economics, McMaster) and Byron G. Spencer (Economics, McMaster)

By the year 2031, all members of the "baby boom" generation will have reached the age of 65. If present trends continue, the fraction of Canada's population 65 and over will be far greater than previously experienced. This paper surveys the literature, issues and evidence relating to changes in the economic costs to society associated with this aging trend.

Some major points raised in this paper are:

SEDAP Research Paper No. 2:

How Much Help Is Exchanged in Families? Towards an Understanding of Discrepant Research Findings

Carolyn J. Rosenthal (Gerontology & Sociology, McMaster) and Leroy O. Stone (Statistics Canada)

There have been a number of studies over the past few decades that have attempted to quantify the amount of within-family help given to and received by older adults. With the publication of the General Social Survey of Canada in 1990, it became apparent that, when comparing such studies, there were widely discrepant findings in terms of the amount of such help.

Rosenthal and Stone examine several relevant studies and attempt to account for the sources of the discrepancies in their findings. Their conclusions are:

SEDAP Research Report No. 3:

Did Tax Flattening Affect RRSP Contributions?

Michael R. Veall (Economics, McMaster)

There is an extensive empirical literature in economics that has tried to determine whether tax-favoured saving, such as Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), is "new" saving or whether such plans have only served as repositories for saving that would have been made in any case. In standard economic theory, RRSP-type programs are seen as inducing new saving because they provide a higher rate of return than do non-tax-favoured forms of saving. To test this theory, Veall considers a case in which rates of return on RRSPs changed and examines the effect on the amounts contributed to RRSPs.

In 1988, marginal personal income tax rates changed in Canada, for some individuals by not insubstantial amounts. Marginal rates decreased for some taxfilers, increased for others and for others remained the same. An increase in an individual's marginal tax rate implies a greater rate of return to a given RRSP contribution as that individual is exempt from paying a now higher amount of tax, both on the contribution and especially on the investment income within the plan. The reverse is true for a decrease in the marginal tax rate. Thus Veall examines the RRSP contribution behaviour for taxfilers whose marginal tax rates increased, stayed the same or fell in 1988, using Statistics Canada's Longitudinal Administrative Data File.

Veall's findings are:

II. First Annual SEDAP Conference: March 12-14, 1999

As part of SEDAP's proposed plan of research over the 5-year period of its support by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, an annual conference series has been established. The purpose of these conferences is to bring together SEDAP members to share their research proposals and findings, and provide an opportunity for the exchange of views. This year's conference focussed on the research potential provided by the numerous large data sets in the hands of our two collaborating organizations, Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in the areas of aging and health. (The conference program is available at our web site.)

Presentations were made by Doug Norris and Michael Wolfson of Statistics Canada, both of whom outlined the numerous surveys and data compilations made by Statistics Canada over the years. Those of most interest to SEDAP researchers include the General Social Survey, the Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, the Survey of Household Spending, the Longitudinal Administrative Data File and the National Population Health Survey. Jennifer Zelmer of the Canadian Institute for Health Information discussed the wide variety of data available in the Canadian health field and SEDAP member Parminder Raina (Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of British Columbia) spoke about the Survey on Health and Aging.

SEDAP researchers, in turn, gave brief presentations on their proposed research that would utilize many of these data sets. These presentations were:

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Last revised: Aug 24, 1999.