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Housing Price Volatility and Downsizing in Later Life

In: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging


  • James Banks
  • Richard Blundell
  • Zoë Oldfield
  • James P. Smith


In this paper, we modeled several types of housing transitions of the elderly in two countries -- Britain and the United States. One important form of these transitions involves downsizing of housing consumption, the importance of which among older households is still debated. This downsizing takes multiple forms, including reductions in the number of rooms per dwelling and the value of the home. There is also evidence that this downsizing is greater when house price volatility is greater and that American households try to escape housing price volatility by moving to places that are experience significantly less housing price volatility. Our comparative evidence in suggests that there is less evidence of downsizing in Britain. Our results indicate that housing consumption appears to decline with age in the US, even after controlling for the other demographic and work transitions associated with age that would normally produce such a decline. No such fall in housing consumption is found in Britain, largely because British households are much more likely to stay in their original residence.
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Suggested Citation

  • James Banks & Richard Blundell & Zoë Oldfield & James P. Smith, 2010. "Housing Price Volatility and Downsizing in Later Life," NBER Chapters,in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 337-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:8210

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Todd Sinai & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2005. "Owner-Occupied Housing as a Hedge Against Rent Risk," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(2), pages 763-789.
    2. Campbell, John Y. & Cocco, Joao F., 2007. "How do house prices affect consumption? Evidence from micro data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 591-621, April.
    3. Joao F. Cocco, 2005. "Portfolio Choice in the Presence of Housing," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(2), pages 535-567.
    4. François Ortalo-Magné & Sven Rady, 2006. "Housing Market Dynamics: On the Contribution of Income Shocks and Credit Constraints ," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(2), pages 459-485.
    5. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2004. "Aging and Housing Equity: Another Look," NBER Chapters,in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 127-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Ortalo-Magne, Francois & Rady, Sven, 2002. "Tenure choice and the riskiness of non-housing consumption," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 266-279, September.
    7. James Banks & Richard Blundell & James P. Smith, 2001. "Financial Wealth Inequality in the United States and Great Britain," Working Papers 01-01, RAND Corporation.
    8. Louise Sheiner & David N. Weil, 1992. "The Housing Wealth of the Aged," NBER Working Papers 4115, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Engelhardt, Gary V., 1996. "House prices and home owner saving behavior," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3-4), pages 313-336, June.
    10. James Banks & Richard Blundell & James Smith, 2000. "Wealth inequality in the United States and Great Britain," IFS Working Papers W00/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    Cited by:

    1. Aysoy, Cem & Aysoy, Cevriye & Tumen, Semih, 2014. "Quantifying and explaining stickiness in housing rents: A Turkish case study with micro-level data," Journal of Housing Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 62-74.
    2. Viola Angelini & Anne Laferrère, 2012. "Residential Mobility of the European Elderly," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 58(3), pages 544-569, September.
    3. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Melanie Lührmann, 2016. "Durable Purchases over the Later Life Cycle," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 78(2), pages 145-169, April.
    4. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2011. "Family Status Transitions, Latent Health, and the Post-Retirement Evolution of Assets," NBER Chapters,in: Explorations in the Economics of Aging, pages 23-69 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jan Rouwendal & Fleur Thomese, 2010. "Homeownership and Demand for Long-Term Care," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-114/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 04 Jan 2011.
    6. Joachim Inkmann & Paula Lopes & Alexander Michaelides, 2011. "How Deep Is the Annuity Market Participation Puzzle?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(1), pages 279-319.
    7. Wise, David Alsgaard & Poterba, James M. & Venti, Steven F., 2011. "The Drawdown of Personal Retirement Assets," Scholarly Articles 4677548, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
    8. Paya, Ivan & Wang, Peng, 2016. "Wealth fluctuations and investment in risky assets: The UK micro evidence on households asset allocation," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 38(PA), pages 221-235.
    9. Esteban Calvo & Kelly Haverstick & Natalia A. Zhivan, 2009. "Determinants and Consequences of Moving Decisions for Older Homeowners," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2009-16, Center for Retirement Research, revised Aug 2009.
    10. Painter, Gary & Lee, KwanOk, 2009. "Housing tenure transitions of older households: Life cycle, demographic, and familial factors," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(6), pages 749-760, November.
    11. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2010. "Demographic Trends, Housing Equity, and the Financial Security of Future Retirees," NBER Chapters,in: Demography and the Economy, pages 227-287 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Huebner, Gesche M. & Shipworth, David, 2017. "All about size? – The potential of downsizing in reducing energy demand," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 186(P2), pages 226-233.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making


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