The Nation - Selected Editorial

Tom Lehman uswa12 at
Mon Jul 20 14:32:01 PDT 1998

Dear Doug, Thanks for the insight.

I wonder what percentage of parents register their minor children for social security and at what ages do they do so? I have an intuitive hunch, based on school funding problems, that their are a lot more little kids out there than are being counted or considered by the stats on population.

All of these productivity questions are complicated by the old time question of utility.

Sincerely, Tom

Doug Henwood wrote:

> Fellows, Jeffrey wrote:
> >Is there any research that examines or posits a minimum (for social
> >stability) long-term productivity growth rate? I have problems believing
> >the 1% rate used by the SSA, especially since a 2% rate may aleviate
> >most, if not all, of the shortfall problem. Also, it seems that a
> >significant proportion (perhaps 30%) of the hypothesized 1% growth rate
> >would be eaten up by changes in the age composition of the US
> >population.
> Assuming both a low productivity growth rate and a low labor force growth
> rate, which is how the Social Security administration justifies its low GDP
> growth rate projections, is at odds with the evidence. At least the
> evidence marshalled by Cutler, Poterba, Sheiner, and Summers in Brookings
> Papers 1 (1990), which argues that population and productivity growth are
> negatively correlated. (Contrast the lower pop growth/higher prod growth of
> Japan and Western Europe with the higher pop growth/lower produ growth of
> the US.) When I pointed this out to the SS administration's chief actuary,
> he said he'd never heard the argument before and asked for the cite. I gave
> it to him, but it seems not to have altered the projections, Especially
> interesting, since one of the authors, Summers, is a bigwig in the Clinton
> administration.
> Doug

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