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Testing Parental Altruism: Implications of a Dynamic Model

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  • Kathleen McGarry

Abstract

Each year parents transfer a great deal of money to their adult children. While intuition might suggest that these transfers are altruistic and made out of concern for the well-being of the children, the fundamental prediction of the altruistic model has been decisively rejected in empirical tests. Specifically, the required derivative restriction-that an increase of one dollar in the income of the recipient, accompanied by a decrease of one dollar in the income of the donor, leads to a one dollar reduction in transfers-fails to hold. I show in this paper that in fact, this prediction will not hold if parents use observations on the current incomes of children to update their expectations about future incomes. This result implies that many past studies have relied on too restrictive a test, and furthermore, that our ability to distinguish empirically between altruistic and exchange behavior is severely limited. The paper also analyzes the variation in transfer behavior over time and finds substantial change across periods in recipiency status as well as strong correlation between inter vivos transfers and the transitory income of the recipient. This evidence suggest that dynamic models can provide insights into transfer behavior that are impossible to obtain in a static context.

Suggested Citation

  • Kathleen McGarry, 2000. "Testing Parental Altruism: Implications of a Dynamic Model," NBER Working Papers 7593, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7593
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    1. Davies, James B, 1981. "Uncertain Lifetime, Consumption, and Dissaving in Retirement," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(3), pages 561-577, June.
    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 305-314, May.
    3. Behrman, Jere R & Pollak, Robert A & Taubman, Paul, 1982. "Parental Preferences and Provision for Progeny," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(1), pages 52-73, February.
    4. Rosenzweig, Mark R & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1994. "Parental and Public Transfers to Young Women and Their Children," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1195-1212, December.
    5. Donald Cox, 1990. "Intergenerational Transfers and Liquidity Constraints," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 187-217.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jensen, Robert T., 2004. "Do private transfers 'displace' the benefits of public transfers? Evidence from South Africa," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 89-112, January.
    2. Cox, Daniel, 2002. "Private inter-household transfers in Vietnam in the early and late 1990s," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2853, The World Bank.
    3. Alessandro Balestrino & Lisa Grazzini & Annalisa Luporini, 2017. "A normative justification of compulsory education," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 30(2), pages 537-567, April.
    4. Stefan Hochguertel & Henry Ohlsson, 2009. "Compensatory inter vivos gifts," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(6), pages 993-1023.
    5. Kristopher Gerardi & Yuping Tsai, 2014. "The Effect of Social Entitlement Programmes on Private Transfers: New Evidence of Crowding Out," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 81(324), pages 721-746, October.
    6. Elin Halvorsen & Thor O. Thoresen, 2011. "Parents' Desire to Make Equal Inter Vivos Transfers," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 57(1), pages 121-155, March.
    7. Ana Fernandes, 2011. "Altruism, labor supply and redistributive neutrality," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(4), pages 1443-1469, October.
    8. Charlene Kalenkoski, 2008. "Parent-child bargaining, parental transfers, and the post-secondary education decision," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(4), pages 413-436.
    9. McGarry, Kathleen, 2016. "Dynamic aspects of family transfers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 1-13.
    10. Horrace, William C. & Oaxaca, Ronald L., 2006. "Results on the bias and inconsistency of ordinary least squares for the linear probability model," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(3), pages 321-327, March.
    11. Jinkook Lee & Drystan Phillips, 2011. "Income and Poverty among Older Koreans Relative Contributions of and Relationship between Public and Family Transfers," Working Papers WR-852, RAND Corporation.
    12. Ernesto Villanueva, 2001. "Parental altruism under imperfect information: Theory and evidence," Economics Working Papers 566, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Sep 2002.
    13. Joern Rattsoe & Rune J. Soerensen, 2009. "Grey power and public budgets: Family altruism helps children, but not elderly," Working Paper Series 10009, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
    14. Audrey Light & Kathleen McGarry, 2004. "Why Parents Play Favorites: Explanations for Unequal Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1669-1681, December.
    15. repec:cep:sticas:/151 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Jellal, Mohamed, 2014. "Family attention care and transfers," MPRA Paper 57897, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Rattsø, Jørn & Sørensen, Rune J., 2010. "Grey power and public budgets: Family altruism helps children, but not the elderly," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 222-234, June.
    18. repec:lje:journl:v:22:y:2017:i:2:p:1-37 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Sumon K. Bhaumik, 2001. "Intergenerational transfers: the ignored role of time," MPIDR Working Papers WP-2001-008, Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany.
    20. Mordechai E. Schwarz, 2006. "Intergenerational Transfers: An Integrative Approach," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 8(1), pages 61-93, January.
    21. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. David Cornille & François Rycx & Ilan Tojerow, 2017. "The employment consequences of SMEs’ credit constraints in the wake of the great recession," Working Paper Research 333, National Bank of Belgium.
    23. Lina Walker, 2004. "Elderly Households and Housing Wealth: Do They Use It or Lose It?," Working Papers wp070, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    24. Paul Glewwe & Nisha Agrawal & David Dollar, 2004. "Economic Growth, Poverty, and Household Welfare in Vietnam," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15010, July.
    25. Karagiannaki, Eleni, 2011. "The magnitude and correlates of inter-vivos transfers in the UK," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 43898, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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