Who Wins and Who Loses? Public Transfer Accounts for US Generations Born 1850 to 2090



Public transfer programs in industrial countries are thought to benefit the elderly through pension and health care programs at the expense of the young and future generations. This intergenerational picture changes, however, if public education is also considered as a transfer program. We calculate the net present value at birth of benefits received minus taxes paid for US generations born 1850 to 2090. Surprisingly, all generations 1950 to 2050 are net gainers, while many current elderly are net losers. Windfall gains from starting Social Security and Medicare partially offset windfall losses from starting public education, roughly consistent with the arguments of Becker and Murphy.