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Selection Effects in the Market for Individual Annuities: New Evidence from the United Kingdom

  • Amy Finkelstein
  • James Poterba

This paper presents new evidence on the importance of adverse selection in individual annuity markets. It focuses on the individual annuity market in the United Kingdom, which provides an excellent empirical setting for studying selection effects. In addition to a voluntary annuity market, the U.K. also has a compulsory annuity market in which individuals in some types of retirement plans are effectively required to purchase retirement annuities. Two empirical regularities support standard models of adverse selection. First, annuitants as a group are longer-lived than randomly selected individuals in the population at large. The expected present value of the annuity payout stream from a typical voluntary annuity is thirteen percent higher for a typical 65-year-old male voluntary annuitant than for a typical 65-year-old male in the U.K. population. This is simply the result of differential mortality between the annuitant population and the population at large. Selection effects are more pronounced in the voluntary than in the compulsory annuity market, but even compulsory annuitants are not a random sample from the U.K. population. In the compulsory annuity market, the cost of adverse selection is between one third and one half of that in the voluntary annuity market. Second, annuitants select across different types of annuity products with different payout profiles, even within the compulsory market. The expected present values of payouts from inflation-indexed annuities and from nominal escalating annuities are lower than those from nominal annuities. This is consistent with longer-lived individuals choosing annuity products with greater payouts in the distant future. We find some puzzling evidence, however, in the relative pricing of nominal escalating annuities and inflation-indexed annuities. In addition to providing evidence on adverse selection, the U.K. annuity market can also be used to study how the price of an insurance product is related to the quantity of insurance purchased. Prices per annuity unit are lower for larger annuity policies than for smaller policies. Some theoretical models of insurance demand, which suggest that poorer risks should purchase more insurance and do not consider the fixed costs of issuing annuity or insurance policies, are inconsistent with this result.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7168.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7168.

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Date of creation: Jun 1999
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Publication status: published as Finkelstein, Amy and James Poterba. "Selection Effects In The United Kingdom Individual Annuities Market," Economic Journal, 2002, v112(476,Jan), 28-50.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7168
Note: AG PE
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  1. 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.
  2. Andrew B. Abel, 1985. "Capital Accumulation and Uncertain Lifetimes with Adverse Selection," NBER Working Papers 1664, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. John Cawley & Tomas Philipson, 1997. "An Empirical Examination of Information Barriers to Trade inInsurance," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 132, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  5. Brugiavini, Agar, 1993. "Uncertainty resolution and the timing of annuity purchases," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 31-62, January.
  6. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 2001. "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds in an Individual Accounts Retirement Program," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 321-370 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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, December.
  8. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1997. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," NBER Working Papers 6002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Benjamin M. Friedman & Mark Warshawsky, 1985. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. O. Attanasio & H. W. Hoynes, . "Differential mortality and wealth accumulation," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1079-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  11. Wilson, Charles, 1977. "A model of insurance markets with incomplete information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 167-207, December.
  12. Blake, David, 2003. "Pension Schemes and Pension Funds in the United Kingdom," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780199243532.
  13. James M. Poterba & Mark Warshawsky, 2000. "The Costs of Annuitizing Retirement Payouts from Individual Accounts," NBER Chapters, in: Administrative Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 173-206 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Friedman, Benjamin M & Warshawsky, Mark J, 1990. "The Cost of Annuities: Implications for Saving Behavior and Bequests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 135-54, February.
  15. 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.
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