National culture and the configuration of public pensions

Abstract

This paper explores the determinants of public pension plan configurations. It is argued that the level of intragenerational redistribution in public pension plans is related to a country’s cultural background. The level of intragenerational redistribution is measured by Krieger and Traub’s Bismarckian factor. The countries’ cultural background is operationalized using cultural dimensions developed by Hofstede. The empirical results are in line with our hypotheses. Uncertainty avoidance appears to have a significant, positive association with the Bismarckian factor (low intragenerational redistribution in public pensions), whereas the relation with individualism is negative (high intragenerational redistribution). Moreover, a positive association is found between the Bismarckian factor and inflation shocks in the first half of the 20th century. While the sample size is limited, the results are robust to the inclusion of different economic, institutional, and demographic control variables as well as to using alternative model specifications. These findings have important public policy implications. We argue that pension reform proposals suggesting a transformation of public to private pension provision should consider the cultural background of countries.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.

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