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Motives for Bequests within the Middle Class

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  • John Laitner

    (University of Michigan)

  • Amanda Sonnega

    (University of Michigan)

Abstract

The life-cycle model of household behavior forms the basis for most economic analysis of Social Security, private pensions, and retirement. This project seeks to extend the usefulness of the life-cycle model by considering the role of middle-class inheritances and bequests. We use HRS data. Prior work by the authors identifies key information in the HRS on the sources of private intergenerational transfers, and it shows that the frequency of couples’ inheritances from both spouses’ family lines is higher than random behavior would imply. Using additional HRS data on the ratio of parent-to-child lifetime incomes, we analyze the motives behind HRS bequests. We find support for an unintentional transfer model in which bequests arise from residual, unspent parent life-cycle resources. And, we show that our model can account for the frequency of dual inheritances that earlier work revealed.

Suggested Citation

  • John Laitner & Amanda Sonnega, 2012. "Motives for Bequests within the Middle Class," Working Papers wp275, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp275
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    File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp275.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-1093, Nov.-Dec..
    2. Modigliani, Franco, 1988. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Saving in the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 15-40, Spring.
    3. Modigliani, Franco, 1986. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift, and the Wealth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 297-313, June.
    4. 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.
    5. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1997. "Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1121-1166, December.
    6. John Laitner, 2002. "Wealth Inequality and Altruistic Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 270-273, May.
    7. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1992. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1177-1198, December.
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