The Economic Burden of Pension Shortfalls: Evidence from House Prices
58 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2021 Last revised: 18 Nov 2021
Date Written: October 2021
U.S. state pensions are underfunded by trillions of dollars, but their economic burden is unclear. In a model of inefficient taxation, real estate fully reflects the cost of pension shortfalls when it is the only form of immobile capital. We study the effect of pension shortfalls on real estate values at state borders, where labor and physical capital could more easily relocate to a state with a smaller shortfall. Using plausibly exogenous variation driven by pension asset returns, we find that one dollar of pension underfunding reduces house prices near state borders by approximately two dollars. Our estimates imply a deadweight loss associated with addressing pension shortfalls that is consistent with prior research in settings with high returns to public spending and costs of taxation.
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