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For post-boomers, public education worth more than Social Security and Medicare
Date:4/15/2010

It's popular to assume retiring baby boomers will benefit from Social Security and Medicare at the expense of younger generations, as analysts estimate that these government-run programs will pay out more than they collect in payroll taxes by 2017.

But a far-reaching new study from the University of California, Berkeley, concludes that younger Americans specifically those born between 1972 and 2060 are actually getting the better deal when the value of public education is factored in as an intergenerational entitlement program on a par with Social Security and Medicare.

"Receiving public education is a really big benefit, and the fact that kids get it at the start of their lives rather than at the end makes it even more valuable," said Ronald Lee, a UC Berkeley demographer and economist who coauthored the study, "Who wins and who loses? Public transfer accounts for U.S. generations born 1850-2090."

On average, Americans pay the taxes that subsidize education 30 years after receiving the benefits, the study noted. By contrast, people start drawing their Social Security and Medicare benefits 30 years or so after paying taxes into these government funds. Thus, each education dollar is worth $10 in retirement benefits, according to the study, which is published in the March issue of the journal Population and Development Review.

The study marks the first time that analysts have treated public education from kindergarten through college as an intergenerational entitlement benefit, which refers to programs funded by taxes paid by generations other than the recipients. The analysts calculated the value of public education relative to the recipients' lifetime earnings.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, "older Americans are not making out like bandits when you factor in the value of public education," Lee said.

Previous studies on government entitlement programs, also called public transfer accounts, have l
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Contact: Yasmin Anwar
yanwar@berkeley.edu
510-643-7944
University of California - Berkeley
Source:Eurekalert

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