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Does the balance of power within a family matter? The case of the Retirement Equity Act

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  • Saku Aura

Abstract

This paper studies within-family decision making regarding investment in income protection for surviving spouses using a simple and tractable Nash-bargaining model. A change in US pension law (the Retirement Equity Act of 1984) is used as an instrument to derive predictions from the bargaining model and to contrast these with the predictions of the classical single-utility-function model of the household. This law change gave spouses of married pension-plan participants the right to survivor benefits unless they explicitly waived this right. The classical view of household behavior predicts that this would have had no effect on choices, while the bargaining model predicts an increase in spousal survivor protection. In the empirical part of the paper, the predictions of the classical model regarding the amount of life-insurance protection and the likelihood of a pensioner selecting survivor benefits are rejected in favor of the predictions of the Nash-bargaining model. The paper thus provides evidence for the need to take the existence of multiple decision makers into account when studying household behavior.

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  • Saku Aura, "undated". "Does the balance of power within a family matter? The case of the Retirement Equity Act," Working Papers 202, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:202
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    Cited by:

    1. Denni Tommasi, 2016. "Household Responses to cash Transfers," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2016-20, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    2. John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2009. "The Importance of Default Options for Retirement Saving Outcomes: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Policy in a Changing Environment, pages 167-195 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Molina, José Alberto & Gimenez-Nadal, J. Ignacio & Velilla, Jorge, 2018. "Intertemporal Labor Supply: A Household Collective Approach," IZA Discussion Papers 11276, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2011. "Behavioral economics perspectives on public sector pension plans," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 10(02), pages 315-336, April.
    5. Rundshagen, Bianca, 2013. "Mediation - Boon or Bane for the Stability and Efficiency of Marriage?," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79840, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    6. Edwin Wong, 2015. "Marital bargaining in the demand for life insurance: evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 243-268, June.
    7. Willaim G. Gale & Karen M. Pence, 2006. "Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 37(1), pages 155-234.
    8. Saku Aura, 2002. "Uncommitted Couples: Some Efficiency and Policy Implications of Marital Bargaining," Working Papers 0217, Department of Economics, University of Missouri.
    9. Beshears, John & Choi, James J. & Laibson, David & Madrian, Brigitte C., 2008. "How are preferences revealed?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1787-1794, August.
    10. Jon Strand, 2007. "Public-good valuation and intra-family allocation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 38(4), pages 527-543, December.
    11. Gale, William & Pence, Karen, 2006. "Are Successive Generations Getting Wealthier, and If So, Why?Evidence from the 1990s," MPRA Paper 55502, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Jon Strand, 2005. "Individual and Household Values of Mortality Reductions with Intrahousehold Bargaining," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 217-236, September.
    13. Lundberg, Shelly & Startza, Richard & Stillman, Steven, 2003. "The retirement-consumption puzzle: a marital bargaining approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1199-1218, May.
    14. Jeffrey R. Brown & Jeffrey R. Kling & Sendhil Mullainathan & Marian V. Wrobel, 2013. "Framing Lifetime Income," NBER Working Papers 19063, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Maurizio Mazzocco & Claudia Ruiz & Shintaro Yamaguchi, 2014. "Labor Supply and Household Dynamics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(5), pages 354-359, May.
    16. Jeffrey R. Brown, 2007. "Rational and Behavioral Perspectives on the Role of Annuities in Retirement Planning," NBER Working Papers 13537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Komura, Mizuki & Ogawa, Hikaru, 2014. "Pension and the Family," IZA Discussion Papers 8479, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Brighita Negrusa & Sonia Oreffice, 2011. "Sexual orientation and household financial decisions: evidence from couples in the United States," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(4), pages 445-463, December.

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