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Longevity Expectations and Death: Can People Predict Their Own Demise?

  • V. Kerry Smith
  • Donald H. Taylor
  • Frank A. Sloan

Using four waves of the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS) this paper tests whether longevity expectations predict actual mortality at the individual level. The results suggest longevity expectations do predict mortality reasonably well. Serious health shocks and new activity limitations do reduce longevity expectations. Given one is prepared to accept that other unobserved causal factors have the same means for those who die and those who survive in each wave it is possible to test whether longevity expectations can serve as a sufficient statistic. The test findings imply that they do not appear to reflect all that individuals know about their personal odds of living to seventy-five.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.91.4.1126
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 91 (2001)
Issue (Month): 4 (September)
Pages: 1126-1134

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:91:y:2001:i:4:p:1126-1134
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.91.4.1126
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  1. Michael D. Hurd & Daniel McFadden & Angela Merrill, 2001. "Predictors of Mortality among the Elderly," NBER Chapters, in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 171-198 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1982. "Expectations, Life Expectancy, and Economic Behavior," NBER Working Papers 0835, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Heckman, James J, 1979. "Sample Selection Bias as a Specification Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 153-61, January.
  4. Viscusi, W Kip & O'Connor, Charles J, 1984. "Adaptive Responses to Chemical Labeling: Are Workers Bayesian Decision Makers?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 942-56, December.
  5. Michael D. Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 2002. "The Predictive Validity of Subjective Probabilities of Survival," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 966-985, October.
  6. Smith, V. Kerry & Taylor, Donald H., Jr. & Sloan, Frank A. & Johnson, F. Reed & Desvousges, William H., 2000. "Do Smokers Respond to Health Shocks?," Working Papers 00-08, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  7. Van de Ven, Wynand P. M. M. & Van Praag, Bernard M. S., 1981. "The demand for deductibles in private health insurance : A probit model with sample selection," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 229-252, November.
  8. White, Halbert, 1982. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation of Misspecified Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 1-25, January.
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