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Selection Effects in the Market for Individual Annuities: New Evidence from the United Kingdom

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  • Amy Finkelstein
  • James Poterba

Abstract

This paper presents new evidence on the importance of adverse selection in individual annuity markets. It focuses on the individual annuity market in the United Kingdom, which provides an excellent empirical setting for studying selection effects. In addition to a voluntary annuity market, the U.K. also has a compulsory annuity market in which individuals in some types of retirement plans are effectively required to purchase retirement annuities. Two empirical regularities support standard models of adverse selection. First, annuitants as a group are longer-lived than randomly selected individuals in the population at large. The expected present value of the annuity payout stream from a typical voluntary annuity is thirteen percent higher for a typical 65-year-old male voluntary annuitant than for a typical 65-year-old male in the U.K. population. This is simply the result of differential mortality between the annuitant population and the population at large. Selection effects are more pronounced in the voluntary than in the compulsory annuity market, but even compulsory annuitants are not a random sample from the U.K. population. In the compulsory annuity market, the cost of adverse selection is between one third and one half of that in the voluntary annuity market. Second, annuitants select across different types of annuity products with different payout profiles, even within the compulsory market. The expected present values of payouts from inflation-indexed annuities and from nominal escalating annuities are lower than those from nominal annuities. This is consistent with longer-lived individuals choosing annuity products with greater payouts in the distant future. We find some puzzling evidence, however, in the relative pricing of nominal escalating annuities and inflation-indexed annuities. In addition to providing evidence on adverse selection, the U.K. annuity market can also be used to study how the price of an insurance product is related to the quantity of insurance purchased. Prices per annuity unit are lower for larger annuity policies than for smaller policies. Some theoretical models of insurance demand, which suggest that poorer risks should purchase more insurance and do not consider the fixed costs of issuing annuity or insurance policies, are inconsistent with this result.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7168.

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Date of creation: Jun 1999
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Publication status: published as Finkelstein, Amy and James Poterba. "Selection Effects In The United Kingdom Individual Annuities Market," Economic Journal, 2002, v112(476,Jan), 28-50.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7168

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  1. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, . "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds In An Individual Accounts Retirement Program," Pension Research Council Working Papers 99-2, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
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  8. Wilson, Charles, 1977. "A model of insurance markets with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 167-207, December.
  9. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1988. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 53-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Paula Lopes, 2003. "Are annuities value for money?: who can afford them?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24899, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Thorburn, Craig & Rocha, Roberto & Morales, Marco, 2006. "An analysis of money's worth ratios in Chile," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3926, The World Bank.
  3. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2000. "Differential Mortality and the Value of Individual Account Retirement Annuities," NBER Working Papers 7560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Suzanne Doyle & Olivia S. Mitchell & John Piggott, 2001. "Annuity Values in Defined Contribution Retirement Systems: The Case of Singapore and Australia," NBER Working Papers 8091, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Estelle James & Guillermo Martinez & Augusto Iglesias, 2004. "Payout Choices by Retirees in Chile: What Are They and Why?," Working Papers wp068, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  6. Amy Finkelstein & James Poterba, 2000. "Adverse Selection in Insurance Markets: Policyholder Evidence from the U.K. Annuity Market," NBER Working Papers 8045, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. James, Estelle & Vittas, Dimitri, 2000. "Annuity markets in comparative perspective : do consumers get their money's wotrth?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2493, The World Bank.
  8. Pecchenino, R.A. & Pollard, P.S., 1999. "Government Mandated Private Pensions: A Dependable Foundation for Retirement Security?," Papers 9902, Michigan State - Econometrics and Economic Theory.
  9. J. Ph. & GAUDEMET, 2001. "The purchase of individual life-annuities: a description of the french institutional setting," Documents de Travail de la DESE - Working Papers of the DESE g2001-08, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques, DESE.
  10. Monika B├╝tler, 2002. "Flexibility and Redistribution in Old Age Insurance," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 138(IV), pages 427-437, December.
  11. James Banks & Carl Emmerson, 2000. "Public and private pension spending: principles, practice and the need for reform," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 21(1), pages 1-63, March.
  12. Amy Finkelstein & James Poterba & Casey Rothschild, 2006. "Redistribution by Insurance Market Regulation: Analyzing a Ban on Gender-Based Retirement Annuities," NBER Working Papers 12205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Johann K. Brunner & Susanne Pech, 2000. "Adverse selection in the annuity market when payoffs vary over the time of retirement," Economics working papers 2000-30, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
  14. Knox, David, 2000. "The Australian annuity market," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2495, The World Bank.
  15. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 2000. "Mortality Risk, Inflation Risk, and Annuity Products," NBER Working Papers 7812, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2000. "How Should We Insure Longevity Risk In Pensions And Social Security?," Issues in Brief ib-4, Center for Retirement Research.

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