Discussion paper

DP6825 Investing for the Old Age: Pensions, Children and Savings

In the last century most countries have experienced both an increase in pension spending and a decline in fertility. We argue that the interplay of pension generosity and development of capital markets is crucial to understand fertility decisions. Since children have traditionally represented for parents a form of retirement saving, particularly in economies with limited or non-existent capital markets, an exogenous increase of pension spending provides a saving technology alternative to children, thus relaxing financial (saving) constraints and reducing fertility. We build a simple two-period OLG model to show that an increase in pensions is associated with a larger decrease in fertility in countries in which individuals have less access to financial markets. Cross-country regression analysis supports our result: an interaction between various measures of pension generosity and a proxy for the development of financial markets consistently enters the regressions positively and significantly, suggesting that in economies with limited financial markets, children represent a (if not the only) way for parents to save for old age, and that increases in pensions amount effectively to relaxing these constraints.


Galasso, V, P Profeta and R Gatti (2008), ‘DP6825 Investing for the Old Age: Pensions, Children and Savings‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 6825. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp6825