As this century ends, old-age pension systems worldwide are experiencing tremendous strain and undergoing rigorous examination. At issue is the ability of current schemes to survive demographic changes which threaten to bankrupt most OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) members' old age pension systems by the early part of the twenty-first century (Peterson, 1996; Steuerle & Bakija, 1994; World Bank, 1994). A variety of proposals have been advanced in response to this concern, which reflect different underlying values and priorities. Varying significantly in their recommendations for the appropriate balance between public and private efforts, these proposals form a continuum of policy choices ranging from the ameliorative model (first advocated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) to the fully privatized model (recommended by the Cato Institute). Between these two extremes, the World Bank and others recommend diversification of the public-only format by relying more heavily on other retirement-income sources. These three alternatives to pension reform-the ameliorative, mixed and privatized models-have economic and social implications. The emerging field of socio-economic theory merges dimensions of economics and social science to create a broader perspective that accounts for both cost benefit analysis and humanistic considerations. Applying this approach, six socio-economic criteria have been identified to conduct a systematic comparison and assessment of the ameliorative, mixed and privatized paths to Social Security reform.

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