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Are Americans More Altruistic than the Japanese? A U.S.-Japan Comparison of Saving and Bequest Motives

  • Charles Yuji Horioka
  • Hideki Fujisaki
  • Wako Watanabe
  • Takatsugu Kouno

In this paper, we analyze a variety of data on saving motives, bequest motives, and bequest division from the Comparative Survey of Savings in Japan and the United States,' a binational survey conducted in 1996 by the Institute for Posts and Telecommunications Policy of the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications of the Government of Japan, in order to shed light on which model of household behavior applies in the two countries. We find (1) that the selfish life cycle model is the dominant model of household behavior in both countries but that it is far more applicable in Japan than it is in the U.S., (2) that the altruism model is far more applicable in the U.S. than it is in Japan but that it is not the dominant model of household behavior in either country, and (3) that the dynasty model is more applicable in Japan than it is in the U.S. bu that it is of only limited applicability even in Japan.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7463.

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Date of creation: Jan 2000
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Publication status: published as International Economic Journal, Vol. 14, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 1-31.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7463
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  1. 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.
  2. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 1985. "Public debt and United States saving: A new test of the neutrality hypothesis," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 55-86, January.
  3. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-32, August.
  4. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1992. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1177-98, December.
  5. 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..
  6. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Horioka, C.Y. & Watanabe, W., 1996. "Why Do People Save? A Micro-Analysis of Motives for Household Saving in Japan," ISER Discussion Paper 0412, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  8. Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1988. "Intergenerational Transfers and Savings," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(2), pages 41-58, Spring.
  9. Christopher Carroll, 2002. "'Risky Habits' and the Marginal Propensity to Consume Out Of Permanent Income," Computing in Economics and Finance 2002 42, Society for Computational Economics.
  10. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Avia Spivak, 1979. "The Family as an Incomplete Annuities Market," NBER Working Papers 0362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. Horioka, C.Y. & Okui, M., 1998. "A U.S.-Japan Comparison of the Importance and Determinants of Retirement Saving," ISER Discussion Paper 0470, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  13. Ohtake, F., 1991. "Bequest Motives of Aged Households in Japan," ISER Discussion Paper 0249, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  14. Ohtake, F. & Horioka, C.Y., 1995. "Saving Motives in Japan," ISER Discussion Paper 0392, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
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