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Intergenerational Transfers in the Health and Retirement Study Data

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  • John Laitner

    (University of Michigan)

  • Amanda Sonnega

    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

Many economic analyses of public policy issues are based upon the life-cycle model of household behavior. The usual formulation omits private intergenerational transfers. This paper considers the possibility of a more sophisticated formulation that includes the latter. We examine 1992-2008 HRS data on inheritances and inter vivos gifts. We uncover an underreporting problem in the data: a household’s financial respondent often seems to understate transfers from his/her in-laws. Nevertheless, other aspects of the data seem very useful. About 30-40 percent of households eventually inherit. Inheritances seem to reflect a mixture of intentional and accidental bequests, with the latter twice as prevalent.

Suggested Citation

  • John Laitner & Amanda Sonnega, 2010. "Intergenerational Transfers in the Health and Retirement Study Data," Working Papers wp238, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp238
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    File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp238.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paul L. Menchik, 1980. "Primogeniture, Equal Sharing, and the U.S. Distribution of Wealth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(2), pages 299-316.
    2. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-577, June.
    3. Laitner, John & Ohlsson, Henry, 2001. "Bequest motives: a comparison of Sweden and the United States," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(1), pages 205-236, January.
    4. William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1994. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 145-160, Fall.
    5. Kessler, Denis & Masson, Andre, 1989. "Bequest and Wealth Accumulation: Are Some Pieces of the Puzzle Missing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 141-152, Summer.
    6. Wilhelm, Mark O, 1996. "Bequest Behavior and the Effect of Heirs' Earnings: Testing the Altruistic Model of Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 874-892, September.
    7. McGarry, K & Schoeni, R-F, 1996. "Measurement and the Redistribution of Resources Within the Family," Papers 96-11, RAND - Reprint Series.
    8. Dunn, Thomas A. & Phillips, John W., 1997. "The timing and division of parental transfers to children," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 135-137, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Blau, David M. & Goodstein, Ryan M., 2016. "Commitment in the household: Evidence from the effect of inheritances on the labor supply of older married couples," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 123-137.

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