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Can subjective survival expectations explain retirement behaviour?

  • Owen O'Donnell
  • Federica Teppa
  • Eddy van Doorslaer

Theory predicts a number of mechanisms through which survival expectations influence retirement decisions: a wealth effect of a longer lifespan; an uncertainty effect through the return on savings; a longevity risk effect; and, an adverse selection effect from pooling within pensions. We use data from the first three waves of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to test whether the timing of retirement is responsive to subjective survival expectations. Measurement error in reported survival chances is allowed for by instrumenting using parental longevity and smoking behaviour. We find a significant concave relationship between the propensity to retire and survival expectations. Men who are extremely pessimistic about their survival chances are least likely to retire, but after initially rising steeply the propensity to retire falls as survival expectations improve over most of their range. This is consistent with some of the theory. For women, the results are more sensitive to allowing for endogeneity. Surprisingly, the retirement behaviour of the less educated is more sensitive to survival expectations.

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Paper provided by Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department in its series DNB Working Papers with number 188.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:dnb:dnbwpp:188
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