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Mortality Risk and Consumption by Couples


  • Michael D. Hurd


This paper proposes and analyzes a life-cycle model of consumption by couples. The model is considerably more complicated than the standard model for singles because it has to account for the welfare of a surviving spouse. The determinants of consumption are the survival paths of each spouse, bequeathable wealth, the flow of annuities both before and after the death of one of the spouses, a motive for bequeathing at the death of the surviving spouse, and the parameters of the utility functions of the couple and of each spouse if widowed. The analysis shows how consumption and the rate of change of bequeathable wealth react to variations in these determinants, and it compares the consumption level of a single person to a couple. Summaries of wealth change and consumption in panel data are given which offer general support for the life-cycle model.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Hurd, 1999. "Mortality Risk and Consumption by Couples," NBER Working Papers 7048, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7048
    Note: AG

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Modigliani, Franco, 1988. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers and Life Cycle Saving in the Accumulation of Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 15-40, Spring.
    2. Laitner, John & Juster, F Thomas, 1996. "New Evidence on Altruism: A Study of TIAA-CREF Retirees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 893-908, September.
    3. Modigliani, Franco, 1986. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift, and the Wealth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 297-313, June.
    4. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Attanasio, Orazio P & Browning, Martin, 1995. "Consumption over the Life Cycle and over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1118-1137, December.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Hurd, Michael D, 1989. "Mortality Risk and Bequests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 779-813, July.
    10. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1988. "Pensions in the U.S. Economy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi88-1, January.
    11. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1988. "Annuity Prices and Saving Behavior in the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Pensions in the U.S. Economy, pages 53-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kapteyn, Arie & Alessie, Rob & Lusardi, Annamaria, 2005. "Explaining the wealth holdings of different cohorts: Productivity growth and Social Security," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(5), pages 1361-1391, July.
    2. Michael Hurd, 2003. "Are Bequests Accidental or Desired?," Working Papers 03-13, RAND Corporation.
    3. Aydilek, Asiye, 2016. "The allocation of time and puzzling profiles of the elderly," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 515-526.
    4. Jan Rouwendal, 2009. "Housing Wealth and Household Portfolios in an Ageing Society," De Economist, Springer, vol. 157(1), pages 1-48, March.
    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. Shelly J. Lundberg & Jennifer Ward-Batts, 2000. "Saving for Retirement: Household Bargaining and Household Net Worth," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1414, Econometric Society.
    7. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith, 2001. "Anticipated and Actual Bequests," NBER Chapters,in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 357-392 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Ernesto Villanueva, 2005. "Inter vivos transfers and bequests in three OECD countries," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 20(43), pages 505-565, July.
    9. Felix Freyland, 2005. "Household Composition and Savings: An Overview," MEA discussion paper series 05087, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    10. 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.
    11. Raun Ooijen & Rob Alessie & Adriaan Kalwij, 2015. "Saving Behavior and Portfolio Choice After Retirement," De Economist, Springer, vol. 163(3), pages 353-404, September.
    12. Freyland, Felix, 2004. "Household composition and savings : an overview," Papers 04-69, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    13. Michael Hurd & Arie Kapteyn, 2003. "Health, Wealth, and the Role of Institutions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
    14. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "Adequacy of Economic Resources in Retirement and Returns-toscale in Consumption," Working Papers wp174, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    15. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2013. "Wealth Dynamics and Active Saving at Older Ages," NBER Chapters,in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures, pages 388-413 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Siu Fai Leung, 2000. "Why Do Some Households Save So Little? A Rational Explanation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(4), pages 771-800, October.
    17. Michael Hurd & James P. Smith, 2002. "Expected Bequests and Their Distribution," NBER Working Papers 9142, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Michael Hurd & Elaine Reardon, 2003. "Real Wealth Changes from 1982 to 1991 Among the Newly Retired," Working Papers 03-15, RAND Corporation.
    19. Carlos Vidal-Melia & Ana Lejárraga-García, 2004. "The Bequest Motive And Single People’S Demand For Life Annuities," Public Economics 0405005, EconWPA.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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