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Estimating Second Order Probability Beliefs from Subjective Survival Data

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  • Péter Hudomiet
  • Robert J. Willis

Abstract

Based on subjective survival probability questions in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), we use an econometric model to estimate the determinants of individual-level uncertainty about personal longevity. This model is built around the Modal Response Hypothesis (MRH), a mathematical expression of the idea that survey responses of 0, 50 or 100 percent to probability questions indicate a high level of uncertainty about the relevant probability. We show that subjective survival expectations in 2002 line up very well with realized mortality of the HRS respondents between 2002 and 2010. We show that the MRH model performs better than typically used models in the literature of subjective probabilities. Our model gives more accurate estimates of low probability events and it is able to predict the unusually high fraction of focal 0, 50 and 100 answers observed in many datasets on subjective probabilities. We show that subjects place too much weight on parents' age at death when forming expectations about their own longevity, while other covariates such as demographics, cognition, personality, subjective health and health behavior are underweighted. We also find that less educated people, smokers and women have less certain beliefs; and recent health shocks increase uncertainty about survival, too.

Suggested Citation

  • Péter Hudomiet & Robert J. Willis, 2012. "Estimating Second Order Probability Beliefs from Subjective Survival Data," NBER Working Papers 18258, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18258
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Engelberg, Joseph & Manski, Charles F. & Williams, Jared, 2009. "Comparing the Point Predictions and Subjective Probability Distributions of Professional Forecasters," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 27, pages 30-41.
    2. Antoine Bommier & Bertrand Villeneuve, 2012. "Risk Aversion and the Value of Risk to Life," Journal of Risk & Insurance, The American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 79(1), pages 77-104, March.
    3. V. Kerry Smith & Donald H. Taylor & Frank A. Sloan, 2001. "Longevity Expectations and Death: Can People Predict Their Own Demise?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 1126-1134, September.
    4. repec:dau:papers:123456789/4812 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Gabriel Picone & Frank Sloan & Donald Taylor, 2004. "Effects of Risk and Time Preference and Expected Longevity on Demand for Medical Tests," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 28(1), pages 39-53, January.
    6. Daniel Ellsberg, 1961. "Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 643-669.
    7. Antoine Bommier & Bertrand Villeneuve, 2012. "Risk Aversion and the Value of Risk to Life," Post-Print hal-01685924, HAL.
    8. Manski, Charles F. & Molinari, Francesca, 2010. "Rounding Probabilistic Expectations in Surveys," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 28(2), pages 219-231.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:eurpop:v:33:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10680-017-9411-y is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Springborn, Michael & Sanchirico, James N., 2013. "A density projection approach for non-trivial information dynamics: Adaptive management of stochastic natural resources," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 609-624.
    3. Teresa Bago d'Uva & Esen Erdogan Ciftci & Owen O'Donnell & Eddy van Doorslaer, 2015. "Who can predict their Own Demise? Accuracy of Longevity Expectations by Education and Cognition," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-052/V, Tinbergen Institute.
    4. repec:eee:moneco:v:90:y:2017:i:c:p:1-12 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Frank Sloan & Lindsey Eldred & Tong Guo & Yanzhi Xu, 2013. "Are people overoptimistic about the effects of heavy drinking?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 93-127, August.
    6. repec:eee:econom:v:200:y:2017:i:2:p:378-389 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General
    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics

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