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Subjective Survival Probabilities in the Health and Retirement Study: Systematic Biases and Predictive Validity

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  • Todd Elder

    (Michigan State University)

Abstract

Recent research has demonstrated that retirement planning and well-being are closely tied to probabilistic forecasts about future events. Using longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, I show that individuals’ subjective survival forecasts exhibit systematic biases relative to life table data. In particular, many respondents fail to account for increases in yearly mortality rates with age, both longitudinally and in crosssection. Additionally, successive cohorts of the near elderly do not appear to revise survival forecasts to match increases in longevity. Forecasting bias may merely be due to the framing of questions designed to elicit expectations, but real biases may result in suboptimal savings rates and timing of retirement. Cross-sectional variation in subjective survival forecasts also appears to reflect differences in cognitive ability across respondents, suggesting that subjective information is more relevant for some individuals than others. Despite these shortcomings, subjective mortality probabilities predict actual mortality and portfolio choice, and they contain information not found in selfreported health status or objective measures of health limitations.

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File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp159.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp159.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp159

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  1. Michael D. Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 1997. "The Predictive Validity of Subjective Probabilities of Survival," NBER Working Papers 6193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John Laitner & Dan Silverman, 2005. "Estimating Life—Cycle Parameters from Consumption Behavior at Retirement”," Working Papers wp099, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  3. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Michael Moore & Younghwan Song, 2006. "The Effect of Subjective Survival Probabilities on Retirement and Wealth in the United States," NBER Working Papers 12688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith & Julie M. Zissimopoulos, 2004. "The effects of subjective survival on retirement and Social Security claiming," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 761-775.
  5. Lee Lillard & Robert J. Willis, 2001. "Cognition and Wealth: The Importance of Probabilistic Thinking," Working Papers wp007, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  6. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1985. "Expectations, Life Expectancy, and Economic Behavior," NBER Working Papers 0835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Harris, Christopher & Laibson, David, 2001. "Dynamic Choices of Hyperbolic Consumers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 935-57, July.
  8. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, 09.
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Cited by:
  1. Owen O'Donnell & Federica Teppa & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2008. "Can subjective survival expectations explain retirement behaviour?," DNB Working Papers 188, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
  2. Thomas Post & Katja Hanewald, 2010. "Stochastic Mortality, Subjective Survival Expectations, and Individual Saving Behavior," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2010-040, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  3. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "Differential Mortality in Europe and the U.S.: Estimates Based on Subjective Probabilities of Survival," Working Papers 613, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  4. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2011. "Differential Survival in Europe and the United States: Estimates Based on Subjective Probabilities of Survival," Demography, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 1377-1400, November.
  5. Anikó Bíró, 2013. "Subjective mortality hazard shocks and the adjustment of consumption expenditures," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 1379-1408, October.
  6. Juergen Jung, 2008. "Subjective Health Expectations," Caepr Working Papers 2008-016, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.

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