A persistent story about Social Security, greedy baby boomers, and badly-treated younger people periodically rises from the grave. But the story is false. I hope that my shining the light of facts can help kill this false story. Spending on the elderly does not displace spending for younger populations. Societies that care about vulnerable people, regardless of their ages, are more generous.
My study of 58 nations over 30 years shows that nations that are generous to their elders also are generous to children. The link is especially strong between good treatment for female elders and poverty programs directed at kids and education spending. In caring societies, pension and education spending increase together, suggesting that when political forces ally the elderly and young families, social spending increases across groups. A 10% increase in spending on education (as a percent of GDP) is correlated with a 7.3% increase in spending on pensions. It seems nations making the political decision to enhance the lives of the old also do so for the young.
But if it isn’t greedy geezers, what are the policies and trends that are really hurting young workers?