The graying of the median voter: Aging and the politics of the welfare state in OECD countries

Analyzing 30 OECD‐countries in 1980‐2005, this paper documents the effect of an aging electorate on retirement spending. The first outcome is that an increase in the age of the median voter is not significantly associated with an increase in retirement spending relative to GDP. The second outcome is that a higher age of the median voter leads to lower benefits per retiree. These results do not change when health care costs are considered instead of retirement spending. Health care costs –both relative to GDP and per inhabitant– are not significantly influenced by the age of the median voter. An alternative specification with the dependency ratio as the operationalization of aging, shows a positive and significant effect of aging on retirement spending. A positive effect on the generosity of pensions is also not present in this case. These results contradict the main prediction of median voter models that an older median voter successfully pushes for higher individual benefits.

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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