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The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey

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Author Info

  • B. Douglas Bernheim
  • Lorenzo Forni
  • Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Abstract

Using data on older workers from the 1992 Health and Retirement Survey, along with an elaborate life-cycle planning model, the authors quantify the effect of each individual's death on the financial status of his or her survivors and the degree to which life insurance holdings moderate these consequences. The average change in living standard that would result from a spouse's death is small, both in absolute terms and relative to the decline that would occur without insurance. However, this average obscures a startling mismatch between insurance holdings and underlying vulnerabilities. For many of the most vulnerable, the amounts purchased are surprisingly small, and for many of the least vulnerable, the amounts are surprisingly large. As a result, uninsured vulnerabilities are quite widespread. The magnitude of these vulnerabilities, as well as the proclivity to address any given degree of vulnerability by purchasing life insurance, vary systematically with individual and household characteristics.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in its series Working Paper with number 0109.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:0109

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Keywords: Life insurance companies;

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References

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  1. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1997. "Projected Retirement Wealth and Savings Adequacy in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 6240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," UCLA Economics Working Papers 151, UCLA Department of Economics.
  3. B. Douglas Bernheim & Lorenzo Forni & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1999. "The Adequacy of Life Insurance: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey," NBER Working Papers 7372, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Nelson, Julie A, 1992. "Methods of Estimating Household Equivalence Scales: An Empirical Investigation," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 38(3), pages 295-310, September.
  5. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1997. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," NBER Working Papers 6002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, . "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-8, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  7. Auerbach, Alan J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 1991. "The adequacy of life insurance purchases," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 215-241, June.
  8. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1987. "The economic effects of social security : Toward a reconciliation of theory and measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 273-304, August.
  9. Ringen, Stein, 1991. "Households, Standard of Living, and Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(1), pages 1-13, March.
  10. Nathan S. Balke & Robert J. Gordon, 1986. "The Estimation of Prewar GNP Volatility, 1869-1938," NBER Working Papers 1999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1985. "Life Insurance of the Elderly: Adequacy and Determinants," NBER Working Papers 1737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence Kotlikoff, 1991. "Life Insurance Inadequacy - Evidence From a Sample of Older Widows," NBER Working Papers 3765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Michael D. Hurd & David A. Wise, 1989. "The Wealth and Poverty of Widows: Assets Before and After the Husband's Death," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 177-200 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. David M. Cutler & Amy Finkelstein & Kathleen McGarry, 2008. "Preference Heterogeneity and Insurance Markets: Explaining a Puzzle of Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 157-62, May.
  2. Thomas Davidoff & Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter A. Diamond, 2005. "Annuities and Individual Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1573-1590, December.
  3. James, Estelle & Edwards, Alejandra Cox & Wong, Rebecca, 2003. "The gender impact of pension reform : a cross-country analysis," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3074, The World Bank.
  4. Kopczuk Wojciech & Slemrod Joel, 2005. "Denial of Death and Economic Behavior," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-26, August.
  5. B. Douglas Bernheim & Katherine Grace Carman & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2002. "The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Working Paper 0201, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  6. Katherine Grace Carman & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2003. "The Impact on Consumption and Saving of Current and Future Fiscal Policies," NBER Working Papers 10085, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dardanoni, V & Li Donni, P, 2008. "Testing For Asymmetric Information In Insurance Markets With Unobservable Types," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 08/26, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  8. Jay H. Hong & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2012. "Life Insurance and Household Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3701-30, December.

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