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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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7048.

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Date of creation: Mar 1999
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published as "Mortality Risk and Bequests", Econometrica, Vol. 57, no. 4(1989): 779-814.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7048
Note: AG
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  1. 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, July.
  2. Hurd, Michael D, 1989. "Mortality Risk and Bequests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 779-813, July.
  3. Attanasio, O.P. & Browning, M., 1993. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle and Over the Business Cycle," Papers 9314, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  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. John Laitner & F. Thomas Juster, 1993. "New evidence on altruism: a study of TIAA-CREF retirees," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 86, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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