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Dynamic Aspects of Family Transfers

  • Kathleen McGarry
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    Each year parents transfer a great deal of money to their adult children. While intuition might suggest that these transfers are altruistic and made out of concern for the well-being of the children, empirical tests of the model have consistently yielded negative results. However, an important limitation in these sorts of studies and of our understanding of transfers in general has stemmed our inability to observe transfers over time. Estimates of patterns in a single cross section necessarily miss important aspects of behavior. In this paper I expand on the static altruistic model and posit a dynamic model in which parents use current observations on the incomes of their children to update their expectations regarding future incomes and desired future transfers. I then draw on data spanning a 17 year period to examine the dynamic aspects of transfer behavior. I find substantial change across periods in recipiency, large differences across children within the family, and a strong negative correlation between inter vivos transfers and the transitory incomes of the recipients. This evidence suggests that dynamic models can provide insights into transfer behavior that are impossible to obtain in a static context.

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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18446.

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    Date of creation: Oct 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18446
    Note: AG LS PE
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    1. Cox, Donald, 1987. "Motives for Private Income Transfers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 508-46, June.
    2. Cox, Donald & Rank, Mark R, 1995. "Erratum [Inter-vivos Transfers and Intergenerational Exchange]," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(3), pages 569, August.
    3. Cox, Donald, 1990. "Intergenerational Transfers and Liquidity Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 187-217, February.
    4. Kathleen McGarry, 2000. "Testing Parental Altruism: Implications of a Dynamic Model," NBER Working Papers 7593, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Cox, Donald & Jappelli, Tullio, 1990. "Credit Rationing and Private Transfers: Evidence from Survey Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 72(3), pages 445-54, August.
    6. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-77, June.
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