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Is a Bird in Hand Worth More than a Bird in the Bush? Intergenerational Transfers and Savings Behavior

  • Jeffrey R. Brown
  • Scott J. Weisbenner

This paper provides new evidence on the decomposition of aggregate household wealth into life-cycle and transfer wealth. Using the 1998 Survey of Consumer Finances, it finds that transfer wealth accounts for approximately one-fifth to one-quarter of aggregate wealth, suggesting a larger role for life-cycle savings than some previous estimates. Despite the smaller aggregate size of transfer wealth, its concentration among a small number of households suggests that it can still have an important effect on the savings decisions of recipients. Estimates suggest that past receipts of transfer wealth reduce life-cycle savings by as much as dollar-for-dollar, while expected future transfers do not produce such a crowd-out effect.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8753.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8753.

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Date of creation: Jan 2002
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Publication status: published as Wise, D. (ed.) Perspectives on the Economics of Aging. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8753
Note: AG PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1987. "Intergenerational Transfers and Savings," NBER Working Papers 2237, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. Lord, William & Rangazas, Peter, 1991. "Savings and Wealth in Models with Altruistic Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 289-96, March.
  4. F. Thomas Juster & Joseph P. Lupton & James P. Smith & Frank Stafford, 2006. "The Decline in Household Saving and the Wealth Effect," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 20-27, February.
  5. 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.
  6. James M. Poterba & Scott Weisbenner, 2000. "The Distributional Burden of Taxing Estates and Unrealized Capital Gains at the Time of Death," NBER Working Papers 7811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael D. Hurd & B. Gabriela Mundaca, 1987. "The Importance of Gifts and Inheritances Among the Affluent," NBER Working Papers 2415, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. W. G. Gale & J. K. Scholz, . "Intergenerational transfers and the accumulation of wealth," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1019-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  9. William G. Gale & Joel B. Slemrod, 2001. "Rethinking the Estate and Gift Tax: Overview," NBER Working Papers 8205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. James Poterba, 1997. "The Estate Tax and After-Tax Investment Returns," NBER Working Papers 6337, 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. Kessler, Denis & Masson, Andre, 1989. "Bequest and Wealth Accumulation: Are Some Pieces of the Puzzle Missing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(3), pages 141-52, Summer.
  13. Laitner, John, 1992. "Random earnings differences, lifetime liquidity constraints, and altruistic intergenerational transfers," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 135-170, December.
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