IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Life Insurance Inadequacy - Evidence From a Sample of Older Widows

Listed author(s):
  • Alan J. Auerbach
  • Laurence Kotlikoff

This paper studies the changes in income experienced by older women when their husbands die. The data used are the Retirement History Survey. The six waves of this survey provide information on roughly 1300 women who became widowed during the ten year period of the survey, 1960-1979. The findings indicate that about one third of new widows experience a substantial reduction (25 percent or greater) in their living standards when their husbands die. The reduction in living standard associated with the husband's death is more severe for younger widows and widows with greater income pre-widowhood. Couples could insure against severe reductions in income of widows by purchasing more life insurance. These findings lead, therefore, to the conclusion reached in previous studies by the authors and other researchers, namely that many couples fail to purchase enough life insurance to prevent a sharp drop in the wife's consumption if her husband dies. This conclusion raises the question of the role of the government in requiring the purchase of life insurance by couples, through the social security system's survivor insurance. The strong and uniform evidence on the pattern and level of life insurance purchases has implications for the scale of social security survivor benefits and the appropriate mix of total social security benefits between survivor and nonsurvivor benefits.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3765.

in new window

Date of creation: Jul 1991
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3765
Note: PE AG
Contact details of provider: Postal:
National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.

Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

in new window

  1. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Spivak, Avia, 1981. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(2), pages 372-391, April.
  2. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
  3. Lewis, Frank D, 1989. "Dependents and the Demand for Life Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 452-467, June.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3765. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.