European Journal of Law and Economics

, Volume 47, Issue 2, pp 171–232 | Cite as

Political economy of pension reforms: an empirical investigation

  • Miroslav Verbič
  • Rok SprukEmail author


We examine effects of political institutions on the probability of introducing pension reforms. A novel dataset is constructed that tracks the systematic development of pension legislation in 36 countries for the period 1970–2013 by focusing on mandatory pay-as-you-go, occupational, and supplementary pension reforms. The evidence highlights the fundamental importance of political institutions in shaping the probability of pension reforms, after controlling for potentially confounding effects of demographic structure, preferences for redistribution and macroeconomic fundamentals. Countries with stronger constraints on the chief executive, non-fractionalized political competition with moderate political power of government and opposition parties with centrist parties in power, and fiscal federalism in the presence of electoral rules with vote sharing thresholds and a high degree of regional autonomy are significantly more likely to introduce pension reforms. The beneficial effects of executive constraints, political competition and inter-jurisdictional federalism on reforms are robust to several misspecification checks, unobserved heterogeneity, and country-specific time trends. We show that when pension reforms occur, some layers of political institutions strengthen public and private pensions relative to GDP while others tend to weaken it.


Pension reform Political economy Applied econometrics 

JEL Classification

C20 H30 H55 



The authors would like to thank Giovanni Batista Ramello for excellent editorial guidance, two anonymous referees for the very helpful comments, Thorsten Beck, James Brown, Marcus Drometer, Libor Dušek, Chukwunonye O. Emenalo, Robert Fleck, Tobias Hlobil, Mitja Kovač, Pierre-Guillaume Méon, to the participants of the 20th Annual Conference of the Society for Institutional and Organizational Economics at Sciences Po (Paris), and to the participants of 33rd Annual Meeting of European Association of Law and Economics for comments, feedback and discussion.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of Ljubljana and Institute for Economic ResearchLjubljanaSlovenia
  2. 2.Faculty of EconomicsUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia

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