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CEP discussion paper
Policy Uncertainty and Precautionary Savings
Francesco Giavazzi and Michael F. McMahon
April 2008
Paper No' CEPDP0863:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: E21; H55

Tags: pension reform; precautionary saving; uncertainty; germany

In 1997 Chancellor Kohl proposed a major pension reform: he pushed the law through Parliament explaining that the German PAYG system had become unsustainable. One limitation of the new law - one that is crucial for our identification strategy - is that it left the generous pension entitlements of civil servants intact. The year after, in 1998, Kohl lost the elections and was replaced by Gerhard Shroeder. One of the first decisions of the new Chancellor was to revoke of the 1997 pension reform. We use the quasi-experiment of the adoption and subsequent revocation of the pension reform to study how households reacted to the increase in uncertainty about the future path of income that such an event produced. Our estimates are obtained from a diff-in-diff estimator: this helps us overcome the identification problem that often affects measures of precautionary saving. Departing from the majority of studies on precautionary saving we also analyze households' response in terms of labor market choices: we find evidence of a labor supply response by those workers who can use the margin offered by part-time employment.