The Politics of Public Pension Reform

R. Kent Weaver

WP#2003-6

Abstract

Public old-age pension programs are the largest single item of public expenditures in most advanced industrial countries. These pension systems have been buffeted by a number of pressures for change in recent years, however, notably an aging population, slower revenue growth, and competitive pressures to limit payroll taxes. Thus it is hardly surprising that pensions have received much attention from policymakers, and caused enormous political conflict, both in the United States and abroad. Policymakers have three very broad sets of options for responding to the increased funding demands of their pension systems: they can cut back on the generosity of specific provisions of their pension programs through retrenchment, refinance their pension programs, or restructure their pension programs. This paper attempts to understand cross-national patterns of pension policymaking as well as distinctive patterns in the United States.