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On Uncertain Lifetimes

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  • Barro, Robert J.
  • Friedman, James W.

Abstract

This paper contrasts consumer choice under uncertain lifetimes with the behavior that would arise if each individual's lifetime were announced at birth. In a model that includes life insurance and excludes investments in human capital, the expected utility under uncertain lifetimes exceeds that under known lifetimes when the latter expectation is based on preannouncement survival probabilities. This conclusion emerges, first, because the model without human capital contains no planning benefits from knowledge of the horizon and, second, because the prior announcement of lifetimes forces risk-averse consumers to undertake an extra gamble that they could otherwise avoid by using life insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • Barro, Robert J. & Friedman, James W., 1977. "On Uncertain Lifetimes," Scholarly Articles 3451301, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3451301
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
    2. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1971. "The Private and Social Value of Information and the Reward to Inventive Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(4), pages 561-574, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bommier, Antoine & Leroux, Marie-Louise & Lozachmeur, Jean-Marie, 2011. "On the public economics of annuities with differential mortality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 612-623.
    2. Han, Nan-Wei & Hung, Mao-Wei, 2021. "The annuity puzzle and consumption hump under ambiguous life expectancy," Insurance: Mathematics and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 76-88.
    3. Drouhin, Nicolas, 2015. "A rank-dependent utility model of uncertain lifetime," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 208-224.
    4. Butler, Monika, 2000. "The political feasibility of pension reform options: the case of Switzerland," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 389-416, March.
    5. Abel, Andrew B, 1986. "Capital Accumulation and Uncertain Lifetimes with Adverse Selection," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(5), pages 1079-1097, September.
    6. d’Albis, Hippolyte & Bonnet, Florian, 2018. "Inequalities in life expectancy and the global welfare convergence," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 168(C), pages 49-51.
    7. R. Glenn Hubbard & Kenneth L. Judd, 1985. "Social Security and Individual Welfare: Precautionary Saving, LiquidityConstraints, and the Payroll Tax," NBER Working Papers 1736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Joel Slemrod, 1982. "Post-War Capital Accumulation and the Threat of Nuclear War," NBER Working Papers 0887, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Miyoshi, Yoshiyuki & Toda, Alexis Akira, 2017. "Growth effects of annuities and government transfers in perpetual youth models," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 1-6.
    10. Siu Fai Leung, 1995. "A distinction between continuous-time and discrete-time models of uncertain lifetime," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 47(3-4), pages 291-296, March.
    11. Hippolyte d’Albis & Ikpidi Badji, 2019. "Intergenerational inequalities in mortality-adjusted disposable incomes," Vienna Yearbook of Population Research, Vienna Institute of Demography (VID) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, vol. 17(1), pages 037-069.
    12. Moresi, Serge, 1999. "Uncertain lifetime, risk aversion and intertemporal substitution," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 207-212, February.
    13. Gary D. Hansen, "undated". "Consumption over the Life Cycle: The Role of Annuities (with Selo Imrohoroglu)," UCLA Economics Online Papers 417, UCLA Department of Economics.
    14. Lee, Robert H., 2008. "Future costs in cost effectiveness analysis," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 809-818, July.
    15. R. Glenn Hubbard, 1987. "Uncertain Lifetimes, Pensions, and Individual Saving," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 175-210, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Tobias C. Vogt & Fanny A. Kluge, 2013. "Care for money? Mortality improvements, increasing intergenerational transfers, and time devoted to the elderly," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2013-014, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    17. Eichenbaum, Martin S & Peled, Dan, 1987. "Capital Accumulation and Annuities in an Adverse Selection Economy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(2), pages 334-354, April.
    18. Tobias C. Vogt & Fanny A. Kluge, 2014. "Care for Money?: Mortality Improvements, Increasing Intergenerational Transfers, and Time Devoted to the Elderly," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 721, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    19. Bravo, Jorge Miguel & Ayuso, Mercedes & Holzmann, Robert, 2019. "Making Use of Home Equity: The Potential of Housing Wealth to Enhance Retirement Security," IZA Discussion Papers 12656, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    20. Bong-Gyu Jang & Hyeng Keun Koo & Yuna Rhee, 2016. "Asset demands and consumption with longevity risk," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 62(3), pages 587-633, August.
    21. Antoine Bommier, 2006. "Mortality, Time Preference and Life-Cycle Models," Working Papers hal-00441888, HAL.

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