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A rational choice theory of midlife crises


  • Liqun Liu

    () (Texas A&M University)

  • Andrew J. Rettenmaier

    () (Texas A&M University)

  • Thomas R. Saving

    () (Texas A&M University)


This paper models the midlife crisis as a decision on whether and when to realize a life dream, incorporating the key components of three psychology theories of midlife crises. It explains why a crisis (dream realization) tends to occur in the midlife if it occurs at all. Other results include that one either realizes his dream fully or not at all, that a shorter life expectancy makes a midlife crisis more likely, and that “crazier” dreams tend to be postponed to a later time in life.

Suggested Citation

  • Liqun Liu & Andrew J. Rettenmaier & Thomas R. Saving, 2012. "A rational choice theory of midlife crises," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(1), pages 51-58.
  • Handle: RePEc:ebl:ecbull:eb-11-00024

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eeckhoudt, Louis R & Hammitt, James K, 2001. "Background Risks and the Value of a Statistical Life," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 261-279, November.
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    More about this item


    midlife crisis; dream; aging; death;

    JEL classification:

    • A1 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics


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