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The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances

Author

Listed:
  • B. Douglas Bernheim
  • Katherine Grace Carman
  • Jagadeesh Gokhale
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Abstract

Using the 1995 Survey of Consumer Finances and an elaborate lifecycle model, we quantify the potential financial impact of each individual’s death on his or her survivors, and we measure the degree to which life insurance moderates these consequences. Life insurance is essentially uncorrelated with financial vulnerability at every stage of the life cycle. As a result, the impact of insurance among at-risk households is modest, and substantial uninsured vulnerabilities are widespread, particularly among younger couples. Roughly two-thirds of poverty among surviving women and more than one-third of poverty among surviving men results from a failure to insure survivors against an diminished living standard. We also identify a systematic gender bias: for any given level of financial vulnerability, couples provide significantly more protection for wives than for husbands.

Suggested Citation

  • B. Douglas Bernheim & Katherine Grace Carman & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2002. "The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Working Paper 0201, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedcwp:0201
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Spivak, Avia, 1981. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 372-391, April.
    2. Auerbach, Alan J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 1991. "The adequacy of life insurance purchases," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 1(3), pages 215-241, June.
    3. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1999. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1299-1318, December.
    4. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1985. "Life Insurance of the Elderly: Adequacy and Determinants," NBER Working Papers 1737, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, "undated". "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-8, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    6. Alan J. Auerbach & Laurence Kotlikoff, 1991. "Life Insurance Inadequacy - Evidence From a Sample of Older Widows," NBER Working Papers 3765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Bernheim, B. Douglas, 1987. "The economic effects of social security : Toward a reconciliation of theory and measurement," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 273-304, August.
    8. James F. Moore & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1997. "Projected Retirement Wealth and Savings Adequacy in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 6240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ringen, Stein, 1991. "Households, Standard of Living, and Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 37(1), pages 1-13, March.
    10. Nathan S. Balke & Robert J. Gordon, 1986. "The Estimation of Prewar GNP Volatility, 1869-1938," NBER Working Papers 1999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. B. Douglas Bernheim & Lorenzo Forni & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2001. "The mismatch between life insurance holdings and financial vulnerabilities: evidence from the Health and Retirement Survey," Working Paper 0109, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    12. Michael D. Hurd & David A. Wise, 1989. "The Wealth and Poverty of Widows: Assets Before and After the Husband's Death," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Aging, pages 177-200 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Nelson, Julie A, 1992. "Methods of Estimating Household Equivalence Scales: An Empirical Investigation," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 38(3), pages 295-310, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Louis Kaplow, 2005. "The Value of a Statistical Life and the Coefficient of Relative Risk Aversion," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 23-34, July.
    2. Joel Slemrod, 2003. "Thanatology and Economics: The Behavioral Economics of Death," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 371-375, May.
    3. repec:dau:papers:123456789/11142 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Yijia Lin & Martin F. Grace, 2007. "Household Life Cycle Protection: Life Insurance Holdings, Financial Vulnerability, and Portfolio Implications," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 74(1), pages 141-173.
    5. Krupa S. Viswanathan & Jean Lemaire & Kate Withers & Katrina Armstrong & Agnieszka Baumritter & John C. Hershey & Mark V. Pauly & David A. Asch, 2007. "Adverse Selection in Term Life Insurance Purchasing due to the BRCA1/2 Genetic Test and Elastic Demand," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 74(1), pages 65-86.
    6. B. Douglas Bernheim & Solange Berstein, 2002. "Saving and Life Insurance Holdings at Boston University – A Unique Case Study," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 161, Central Bank of Chile.
    7. repec:dau:papers:123456789/11143 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Insurance industry;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies

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