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The Predictive Validity of Subjective Mortality Expectations: Evidence From the Health and Retirement Study

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  • Todd Elder

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Abstract

Several recent studies suggest that individual subjective survival forecasts are powerful predictors of both mortality and behavior. Using 15 years of longitudinal data from the Health and Retirement Study, I present an alternative view. Across a wide range of ages, predictions of in-sample mortality rates based on subjective forecasts are substantially less accurate than predictions based on population life tables. Subjective forecasts also fail to capture fundamental properties of senescence, including increases in yearly mortality rates with age. To shed light on the mechanisms underlying these biases, I develop and estimate a latent-factor model of how individuals form subjective forecasts. The estimates of this model’s parameters imply that these forecasts incorporate several important sources of measurement error that arguably swamp the useful information they convey. Copyright Population Association of America 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Todd Elder, 2013. "The Predictive Validity of Subjective Mortality Expectations: Evidence From the Health and Retirement Study," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 569-589, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:50:y:2013:i:2:p:569-589 DOI: 10.1007/s13524-012-0164-2
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Crossley, Thomas F. & Kennedy, Steven, 2002. "The reliability of self-assessed health status," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 643-658, July.
    2. V. Kerry Smith & Donald H. Taylor & Frank A. Sloan, 2001. "Longevity Expectations and Death: Can People Predict Their Own Demise?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1126-1134, September.
    3. 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.
    4. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, September.
    5. Maria Perozek, 2008. "Using subjective expectations to forecast longevity: do survey respondents know something we don’t know?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(1), pages 95-113, February.
    6. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1985. "Expectations, Life Expectancy, and Economic Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 389-408.
    7. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith & Julie M. Zissimopoulos, 2004. "The effects of subjective survival on retirement and Social Security claiming," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 761-775.
    8. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Biró Anikó, 2016. "Differences between Subjective and Predicted Survival Probabilities and Their Relation to Preventive Care Use," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 16(2), pages 807-835, April.
    2. Di Girolamo, Amalia & Harrison, Glenn W. & Lau, Morten I. & Swarthout, J. Todd, 2015. "Subjective belief distributions and the characterization of economic literacy," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 1-12.
    3. Wu, Shang & Stevens, Ralph & Thorp, Susan, 2015. "Cohort and target age effects on subjective survival probabilities: Implications for models of the retirement phase," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 39-56.
    4. Grevenbrock, Nils & Groneck, Max & Ludwig, Alexander & Zimper, Alexander, 2015. "Biased Survival Beliefs, Psychological and Cognitive Explanations, and the Demand for Life Insurances," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113203, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    5. Federica Teppa & Susan Thorp & Hazel Bateman, 2015. "Family, friends and framing: A cross-country study of subjective survival expectations," DNB Working Papers 491, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    6. Groneck, Max & Ludwig, Alexander & Zimper, Alexander, 2016. "A life-cycle model with ambiguous survival beliefs," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 162(C), pages 137-180.
    7. repec:spr:eurpop:v:33:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10680-017-9411-y is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Amalia Di Girolamo & Glenn W. Harrison & Morten I. Lau & J. Todd Swarthout, 2013. "Characterizing Financial and Statistical Literacy," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2013-04, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    9. Groneck, Max & Ludwig, Alexander & Zimper, Alexander, 2017. "The impact of biases in survival beliefs on savings behavior," SAFE Working Paper Series 169, Research Center SAFE - Sustainable Architecture for Finance in Europe, Goethe University Frankfurt.
    10. Teresa Bago d'Uva & Esen Erdogan Ciftci & Owen O'Donnell & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2015. "Who can predict their Own Demise? Accuracy of Longevity Expectations by Education and Cognition," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-052/V, Tinbergen Institute.

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