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Managing the Risk of Life


  • Adeline Delavande


  • Robert Willis

    (University of Michigan)


This study analyzes the role of individual’s and spouse’s survival expectations and knowledge about Social Security rules on the expected Social Security claiming age, taking into account the various incentives single and married individuals face. There is substantial heterogeneity in the level of knowledge about SS rules according to demographic characteristics. We find that single men and women who expect to be long-lived plan on delaying Social Security claiming. When we allow for differential effects of survival on knowledge about Social Security rules, subjective survivals matter only for single women who are knowledgeable. For single men, knowledge is not so important in their decisions. The claiming decision of married individuals is more complicated, because they are entitled to spouse’s and survivor’s benefits. Consistent with the incentives provided by Social Security rules, we find that married men base their expected claiming age on their spouse’s survival expectations but not on their own survival. For married women, both own and spouse’s subjective survivals positively influence the timing of claiming. Knowledge about Social Security rules affects the expected claiming age of both married men and women.

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  • Adeline Delavande & Robert Willis, 2007. "Managing the Risk of Life," Working Papers wp167, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp167

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sewin Chan & Ann Huff Stevens, 2008. "What You Don't Know Can't Help You: Pension Knowledge and Retirement Decision-Making," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 253-266, May.
    2. Coile, Courtney & Diamond, Peter & Gruber, Jonathan & Jousten, Alain, 2002. "Delays in claiming social security benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 357-385, June.
    3. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith & Julie M. Zissimopoulos, 2004. "The effects of subjective survival on retirement and Social Security claiming," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 761-775.
    4. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Imperfect Knowledge, Retirement and Saving," Working Papers wp012, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    5. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
    6. Li Gan & Michael D. Hurd & Daniel L. McFadden, 2005. "Individual Subjective Survival Curves," NBER Chapters,in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 377-412 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Michael D. Hurd & Kathleen McGarry, 2002. "The Predictive Validity of Subjective Probabilities of Survival," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(482), pages 966-985, October.
    8. Adeline Delavande & Michael Perry & Robert Willis, 2006. "Probabilistic Thinking and Early Social Security Claiming," Working Papers wp129, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. Adeline Delavande & Hans-Peter Kohler, 2009. "Subjective expectations in the context of HIV/AIDS in Malawi," Demographic Research, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany, vol. 20(31), pages 817-875, June.
    2. Post, Thomas & Hanewald, Katja, 2013. "Longevity risk, subjective survival expectations, and individual saving behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 200-220.
    3. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "Differential Mortality in Europe and the U.S. Estimates Based on Subjective Probabilities of Survival," Working Papers 613, RAND Corporation.
    4. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "Eliciting Subjective Expectations in Internet Surveys," Working Papers 589, RAND Corporation.

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