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Life Expectancy, Schooling, and Lifetime Labor Supply: Theory and Evidence Revisited

  • Matteo Cervellati
  • Uwe Sunde

This paper presents a theoretical and empirical analysis of the role of life expectancy for optimal schooling and lifetime labor supply. The results of a simple prototype Ben-Porath model with age-specific survival rates show that an increase in lifetime labor supply is not a necessary, nor a sufficient, condition for greater life expectancy to increase optimal schooling. The observed increase in survival rates during working ages that follows from the "rectangularization" of the survival function is crucial for schooling and labor supply. The empirical results suggest that the relative benefits of schooling have been increasing across cohorts of US men born 1840-1930. A simple quantitative analysis shows that a realistic shift in the survival function can lead to an increase in schooling and a reduction in lifetime labor hours.

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Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Econometrica.

Volume (Year): 81 (2013)
Issue (Month): 5 (09)
Pages: 2055-2086

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:81:y:2013:i:5:p:2055-2086
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  1. Hippolyte D'Albis & Paul Lau Sau-Him & Miguel Sanchez-Romero, 2012. "Mortality transition and differential incentives for early retirement," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" hal-00659868, HAL.
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  6. Strulik, Holger & Werner, Katharina, 2012. "Life expectancy, labor supply, and long-run growth: Reconciling theory and evidence," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 141, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
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  12. Casper Hansen & Lars Lønstrup, 2012. "Can higher life expectancy induce more schooling and earlier retirement?," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 25(4), pages 1249-1264, October.
  13. Holger Strulik & Sebastian Vollmer, 2013. "Long-run trends of human aging and longevity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 26(4), pages 1303-1323, October.
  14. John Wilmoth & Shiro Horiuchi, 1999. "Rectangularization revisited: Variability of age at death within human populations," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 36(4), pages 475-495, November.
  15. Rosenbloom, Joshua L., 1996. "Was There a National Labor Market at the End of the Nineteenth Century? New Evidence on Earnings in Manufacturing," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(03), pages 626-656, September.
  16. Ludwig, Alexander & Schelkle, Thomas & Vogel, Edgar, 2010. "Demographic Change, Human Capital and Welfare," MEA discussion paper series 10196, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
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