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Parental Altruism and Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory and Evidence

  • Joseph G. Altonji
  • Fumio Hayashi
  • Laurence Kotlikoff

This paper uses PSID data on the extended family to test whether inter vivos transfers from parents to children are motivated by altruism. Specifically, the paper tests whether an increase by one dollar in the income of parents actively making transfers to a child coupled with a one dollar reduction in that child's income results in the parents increasing their transfer to the child by one dollar. This restriction on parental and child transfer-income derivatives is derived for the standard altruism model augmented to include uncertain and liquidity constraints. These additional elements pin down the timing of inter vivos transfers. The paper's method of estimating income-transfer derivatives takes into account unobserved heterogeneity across families in the degree of altruism. The findings strongly reject the altruism hypothesis. Redistributing one dollar from a recipient child to donor parents leads to less than a 13 cent increase in the parents' transfer to the child -- far less than the one dollar increase implied by altruism.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5378.

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Date of creation: Dec 1995
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Altonji, Joseph G., Fumio Hayashi and Laurence J. Kotlikoff. "Parental Altruism And Inter Vivos Transfers: Theory And Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, 1997, v105(6,Dec), 1121-1166.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5378
Note: LS PE
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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Fumio Hayashi & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1989. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," NBER Working Papers 3046, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Cox, Donald & Rank, Mark R, 1992. "Inter-vivos Transfers and Intergenerational Exchange," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 305-14, May.
  3. Altig, David & Davis, Steven J, 1992. "The Timing of Intergenerational Transfers, Tax Policy, and Aggregate Savings," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1199-220, December.
  4. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Assaf Razin & Robert W. Rosenthal, 1988. "A Strategic Altruism Model In Which Ricardian Equivalence Does Not Hold," NBER Working Papers 2699, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Menchik, Paul L, 1980. "Primogeniture, Equal Sharing, and the U. S. Distribution of Wealth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 299-316, March.
  6. 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 372-91, April.
  7. Hayashi, Fumio, 1995. "Is the Japanese Extended Family Altruistically Linked? A Test Based on Engel Curves," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(3), pages 661-74, June.
  8. William G. Gale & John Karl Scholz, 1991. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Accumulation of Wealth," UCLA Economics Working Papers 624, UCLA Department of Economics.
  9. Bergstrom, Theodore C., 1993. "A survey of theories of the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 21-79 Elsevier.
  10. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  11. Drazen, Allan, 1978. "Government Debt, Human Capital, and Bequests in a Life-Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(3), pages 505-16, June.
  12. Blinder, Alan S, 1976. "Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 87-93, May.
  13. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1985. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1045-76, December.
  14. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. IOANNIDESÂ , Yannis & KANÂ , Kamhon, 1994. "The Nature of Two-Direction Intergenerational Transfers of Money and Time : An Empirical Analysis," CORE Discussion Papers 1994033, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  16. Cox, Donald, 1987. "Motives for Private Income Transfers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 508-46, June.
  17. Pollak, Robert A, 1985. "A Transaction Cost Approach to Families and Households," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 581-608, June.
  18. Sebastian Edwards & Miguel Savastano, 1988. "Latin America's Intraregional Trade: Evolution and Future Prospects," NBER Working Papers 2738, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Cox, Donald, 1990. "Intergenerational Transfers and Liquidity Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 187-217, February.
  20. Blundell, Richard & Meghir, Costas, 1987. "Bivariate alternatives to the Tobit model," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 179-200.
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