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The Contribution of Intergenerational Transfers to Total Wealth: A Reply

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  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Lawrence H. Summers

Abstract

This paper responds to Franco Modigliani's recent critique of our 1981 paper on the importance of intergenerational transfers for U.S. savings. Modigliani's paper is the latest salvo in a long running debate over the importance of intergenerational transfers in explaining savings behavior. While Modigliani corrects an algebraic error of minor consequences in our earlier paper, its correction does not, in our view, call into question the fundamental conclusion that life cycle considerations can account for only a small part of aggregate capital accumulation. Inevitably, it is possible to challenge aspects of any complex empirical calculation. Modigliani's attacks seem to us incorrect in most cases and generally fail to address our primary method of determining the importance of intergenerational transfers. Many considerations at least as important as those raised by Modigilani suggest that our method produces an overestimate of the importance of life cycle wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "The Contribution of Intergenerational Transfers to Total Wealth: A Reply," NBER Working Papers 1827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1827
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. B. Douglas Bernheim & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "Bequests as a Means of Payment," NBER Working Papers 1303, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-544, September.
    4. Eckstein, Zvi & Eichenbaum, Martin & Peled, Dan, 1985. "Uncertain lifetimes and the welfare enhancing properties of annuity markets and social security," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 303-326, April.
    5. Menchik, Paul L & David, Martin, 1983. "Income Distribution, Lifetime Savings, and Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 672-690, September.
    6. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-732, August.
    7. Eytan Sheshinski & Yoram Weiss, 1981. "Uncertainty and Optimal Social Security Systems," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 96(2), pages 189-206.
    8. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John B. Shoven & Avia Spivak, 1987. "Annuity Markets, Savings, and the Capital Stock," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 211-236 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1987. "Dissaving after Retirement: Testing the Pure Life Cycle Hypothesis," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 237-280 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 1985. "Public debt and United States saving: A new test of the neutrality hypothesis," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 55-86, January.
    11. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John B. Shoven & Avia Spivak, 1984. "The Impact of Annuity Insurance on Savings and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 1403, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Mirer, Thad W, 1979. "The Wealth-Age Relation among the Aged," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 435-443, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sanchez-Losada, Fernando, 2000. "Growth effects of an unfunded social security system when there is altruism and human capital," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 95-99, October.
    2. Schultz, T. Paul, 2009. "The Gender and Generational Consequences of the Demographic Transition and Population Policy: An Assessment of the Micro and Macro Linkages," Working Papers 71, Yale University, Department of Economics.
    3. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & David Weil, 2010. "Mortality change, the uncertainty effect, and retirement," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 65-91, March.
    4. C. Lee, 1998. "Life Cycle Savings in the United States, 1900-1990," CPE working papers 0014, University of Chicago - Centre for Population Economics.
    5. Mauro Baranzini, 2005. "Modigliani's life-cycle theory of savings fifty years later," BNL Quarterly Review, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, vol. 58(233-234), pages 109-172.
    6. Michael D. Hurd, 1992. "Wealth Depletion and Life-Cycle Consumption by the Elderly," NBER Chapters,in: Topics in the Economics of Aging, pages 135-162 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Michael D. Hurd, 1999. "Mortality Risk and Consumption by Couples," NBER Working Papers 7048, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Michael Hurd, 1993. "The effect of changes in Social Security on bequests," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 157-176, December.
    9. Kunze, Lars, 2010. "Capital taxation, long-run growth, and bequests," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 1067-1082, December.
    10. Carlos Garriga & Fernando Sánchez-Losada, 2009. "Estate taxation with warm-glow altruism," Portuguese Economic Journal, Springer;Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestao, vol. 8(2), pages 99-118, August.
    11. Mauro Baranzini, 2005. "Modigliani's life-cycle theory of savings fifty years later," Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, vol. 58(233-234), pages 109-172.
    12. Schmidt-Hebbel, Klaus & Serven, Luis, 2000. "Does income inequality raise aggregate saving?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 417-446, April.
    13. repec:zbw:rwirep:0113 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. 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.
    15. Laura de Pablos Escobar, 2006. "The Personal Wealth Taxes: The Inheretance and Gift Taxes and the Net Wealth Tax in Spain," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper0606, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    16. Lars Kunze, 2009. "Capital Taxation, Long-run Growth, and Bequests," Ruhr Economic Papers 0113, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    17. Mordechai E. Schwarz, 2006. "Intergenerational Transfers: An Integrative Approach," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(1), pages 61-93, January.
    18. Chatzouz, Moustafa, 2014. "Government Debt and Wealth Inequality: Theory and Insights from Altruism," MPRA Paper 77007, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    19. Bernhard Felderer, 1993. "New issues in public pension economics," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 1-15, December.

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