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The Effect of Subjective Survival Probabilities on Retirement and Wealth in the United States

  • David E. Bloom
  • David Canning
  • Michael Moore
  • Younghwan Song

We explore the proposition that expected longevity affects retirement decisions and accumulated wealth using micro data drawn from the Health and Retirement Study for the United States. We use data on a person's subjective probability of survival to age 75 as a proxy for their prospective lifespan. In order to control for the presence of measurement error and focal points in responses, as well as reverse causality, we instrument subjective survival probabilities using information on current age, or age at death, of the respondent's parents. Our estimates indicate that increased subjective probabilities of survival result in increased household wealth among couples, with no effect on the length of the working life. These findings are consistent with the view that retirement decisions are driven by institutional constraints and incentives and that a longer expected lifespan leads to increased wealth accumulation.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12688.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12688.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Publication status: published as Clark, Robert, Naohiro Ogawa, and Andrew Mason (eds.) "Population Aging, Intergenerational Transfers and the Macroeconomy." Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, MA: Elgar, 2007.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12688
Note: AG HC HE LS PE
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  1. Angus Deaton & Christina H. Paxson, 1993. "Saving, Growth, and Aging in Taiwan," NBER Working Papers 4330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Michael Moore & Younghwan Song, 2006. "The Effect of Subjective Survival Probabilities on Retirement and Wealth in the United States," NBER Working Papers 12688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Michael Moore, 2005. "The Effect of Improvements in Health and Longevity on Optimal Retirement and Saving," PGDA Working Papers 0205, Program on the Global Demography of Aging.
  4. Ronald D Lee & Andrew Mason & Tim Miller, 1998. "Saving, Wealth, and Population," Working Papers 199805, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  5. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & David N. Weil, 2004. "Mortality Change, the Uncertainty Effect, and Retirement," Working Papers 2004-04, Department of Economics, University of Houston.
  6. Michael D. Hurd & Daniel L. McFadden & Li Gan, 1998. "Subjective Survival Curves and Life Cycle Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: Inquiries in the Economics of Aging, pages 259-309 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Boucekkine, Raouf & de la Croix, David & Licandro, Omar, 2002. "Vintage Human Capital, Demographic Trends, and Endogenous Growth," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 104(2), pages 340-375, June.
  8. William F. Bassett & Robin L. Lumsdaine, 2001. "Probability Limits: Are Subjective Assessments Adequately Accurate?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 36(2), pages 327-363.
  9. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Bryan Graham, 2003. "Longevity and Life-cycle Savings," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 105(3), pages 319-338, 09.
  10. 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.
  11. David E. Bloom & David Canning & Rick Mansfield & Michael Moore, 2006. "Demographic Change, Social Security Systems, and Savings," NBER Working Papers 12621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Mariano Kulish & Kathryn Smith & Christopher Kent, 2006. "Ageing, Retirement and Savings: A General Equilibrium Analysis," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp2006-06, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  13. Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1985. "Expectations, Life Expectancy, and Economic Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(2), pages 389-408, May.
  14. Gruber, Jonathan & Wise, David, 1998. "Social Security and Retirement: An International Comparison," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 158-63, May.
  15. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Nan Li & Ronald Lee, 2005. "Coherent mortality forecasts for a group of populations: An extension of the lee-carter method," Demography, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 575-594, August.
  19. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2000. "Retirement Outcomes in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 7588, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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