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Differential Mortality and Wealth Accumulation

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  • Orazio P. Attanasio
  • Hilary W. Hoynes

Abstract

The issue of asset accumulation and decumulation is central to the life cycle theory of consumer behavior and to many policy questions. One of the main implications of the life cycle model is that assets are decumulated in the last part of life. Most empirical studies in this area use cross-sectional data of estimate mean or median wealth-age profiles. The use of cross-sections to estimate the age profile of assets is full of pitfalls. For example, if wealth and mortality are related, in that poorer individuals die younger, one overestimates the last part of the wealth-age profile when using cross-sectional data because means (or other measures of location) are taken over a population which becomes 'richer' as it ages. This paper examines the effect of differential mortality on cross-sectional estimates of wealth-age profiles. Our approach is to quantify the dependence of mortality rates on wealth and use these estimates to 'correct' wealth-age profiles for sample selection due to differential mortality. We estimate mortality rates as a function of wealth and age for a sample of married couples drawn from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Our results show that accounting for differential mortality produces wealth profiles with significantly more dissaving among the elderly.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5126.

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Date of creation: May 1995
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Publication status: published as Journal of Human Resources, Volume 35, Number 1 (Winter) 2000, 1-29.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5126

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  1. Mirer, Thad W, 1979. "The Wealth-Age Relation among the Aged," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 435-43, June.
  2. Nancy Jianakoplos & Paul Menchik & Owen Irvine, 1989. "Using Panel Data to Assess the Bias in Cross-sectional Inferences of Life-Cycle Changes in the Level and Composition of Household Wealth," NBER Chapters, in: The Measurement of Saving, Investment, and Wealth, pages 553-644 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Shorrocks, A F, 1975. "The Age-Wealth Relationship: A Cross-Section and Cohort Analysis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 57(2), pages 155-63, May.
  4. Attanasio, Orazio P., 1993. "An analysis of life-cycle accumulation of financial assets," Ricerche Economiche, Elsevier, vol. 47(4), pages 323-354, December.
  5. King, M A & Dicks-Mireaux, L-D L, 1982. "Asset Holdings and the Life-Cycle," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(366), pages 247-67, June.
  6. Hurd, Michael D, 1990. "Research on the Elderly: Economic Status, Retirement, and Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 565-637, June.
  7. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1981. "Social Security, Bequests, and the Life Cycle Theory of Saving: Cross-Sectional Tests," NBER Working Papers 0619, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Michael D. Hurd & David A. Wise, 1987. "The Wealth and Poverty of Widows: Assets Before and After the Husband's Death," NBER Working Papers 2325, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Richard T. Curtin & Thomas Juster & James N. Morgan, 1989. "Survey Estimates of Wealth: An Assessment of Quality," NBER Chapters, in: The Measurement of Saving, Investment, and Wealth, pages 473-552 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Mervyn A. King & Louis Dicks-Mireaux, 1981. "Asset Holdings and the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 0614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-77, June.
  12. Michael D. Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 1993. "Evaluation of Subjective Probability Distributions in the HRS," NBER Working Papers 4560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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