How Generous are Societies Toward Their Elderly? A European Comparative Study of Replacement Rates, Well-Being and Economic Adequacy

Aviad Tur-Sinai, Avia Spivak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Replacement rates have gained acceptance as a useful metric for assessing the conditions of retirees and households at point of retirement. Here we use data from the SHARE longitudinal database to investigate income dynamics within a comparative European context. Our analysis, centering on households as opposed to the individuals on whom international data commonly focus, reduces replacement rates to their components—pension, work income, etc.—and looks at the dynamics among household members in relation to work and pension income. Total replacement rates vary widely among the fourteen countries sampled: overall replacement rates are around the Bismarckian 70% across the entire sample, 80% in countries that have Social Democratic and Continental social-policy regimes, and 60% in countries that have East European and Middle Eastern regimes. Looking at the pension and wage components, however, the latter accounts for about 30% of household income—an important fact for decision-makers to consider. Couples tend to retire together, especially if close in age, and work income compensates amply for lower pension income. The Gini coefficients of our sample are compared before/after retirement to determine whether the social programs that underlie pensions mitigate income inequality after retirement. Finally, we examine the well-being and quality of life of retirees and their households. We find a positive correlation between replacement rate and indicators of retirees’ and their households’ quality of life, e.g., satisfaction with life, ability to consume healthcare services, and ability to cover unforeseen expenses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-105
Number of pages35
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Income distribution
  • J14
  • J26
  • J32
  • Replacement rate
  • Retirement
  • Social-policy regime

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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