Essays on Pensions, Retirement and Tax Evasion

University dissertation from Uppsala : Department of Economics, Uppsala University

Abstract: Essay I: This essay provides an overview of the history of the Swedish pension system. Starting with the implementation of the public pension system in 1913, it outlines the key components of each major pension reform up until today along with a discussion of the main trade-offs and concerns that policy makers have faced. It also describes the historical background of the four largest occupational pension plans in Sweden and the mutual influence between these plans and the public pension system.       Essay II: Despite the fact that the increasing involvement of the private sector in pension provision has brought more flexibility to the pay-out phase of retirement, little is known about the characteristics of those who choose to annuitize their pension wealth and those who do not. I combine unique micro-data from a large Swedish occupational pension plan with rich national administrative data to study the choice between life annuities and fixed-term payouts with a minimum payout length of 5 years for 183,000 retiring white-collar workers. I find that low accumulation of assets is strongly associated with the choice of the 5-year payout. Consistent with individuals selecting payout length based on private information about their mortality prospects, individuals who choose the 5-year payout are in worse health, exhibit higher ex-post mortality rates and have shorter-lived parents than annuitants. Individuals also seem to respond to large, tax-induced changes in annuity prices.            Essay III: This essay estimates the causal effect of postponing retirement on a wide range of health outcomes using Swedish administrative data on cause-specific mortality, hospitalizations and drug prescriptions. Exogenous variation in retirement timing comes from a reform which raised the age at which broad categories of Swedish local government workers were entitled to retire with full pension benefits from 63 to 65. The reform caused a remarkable shift in the retirement distribution of the affected workers, increasing the actual retirement age by more than 4.5 months. Instrumental variable estimation results show no effect of postponing retirement on the overall consumption of health care, nor on the risk of dying early. There is evidence, however, of a reduction in diabetes-related hospitalizations and in the consumption of drugs that treat anxiety.Essay IV (with Per Engström): The consumption based method to estimate underreporting among self-employed, introduced by Pissarides and Weber (1989), is one of the workhorses in the empirical literature on tax evasion/avoidance. We show that failure to account for transitory income fluctuations in current income may overestimate the degree of underreporting by around 40 percent. Previous studies typically use instrumental variable methods to address the issue. In contrast, our access to registry based longitudinal income measures allows a direct approach based on more permanent income measures. This also allows us to evaluate the performance of a list of instruments widely used in the previous literature. Our analysis shows that capital income is the most suitable instrument in our application, while education and housing related measures do not seem to satisfy the exclusion restrictions.

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