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Probabilistic Thinking and Early Social Security Claiming. 8th Annual Joint Conference of the Retirement Research Consortium “Pathways to a Secure Retirement” August 10-11, 2006 Washington, D.C. Motivation. Do people claim SS based on their survival expectations?

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probabilistic thinking and early social security claiming
Probabilistic Thinking and Early Social Security Claiming

8th Annual Joint Conference of the Retirement Research Consortium

“Pathways to a Secure Retirement”

August 10-11, 2006

Washington, D.C.

motivation
Motivation
  • Do people claim SS based on their survival expectations?
  • Hurd, Smith and Zissimopoulos - HSZ (2004)
    • Use direct measures of survival expectations
    • Findings: subjective survival of 0 associated with early claiming; otherwise, no effect
  • Is the effect found by HSZ too small?
    • Survey measures of survival expectations capture much individual heterogeneity in risk
    • But also have a lot of measurement error
this paper
This Paper
  • We reexamine whether people claim SS based on their survival expectations
  • Correct measurement error in elicited subjective survival probabilities using rich set of risk factors as instruments
  • Findings: People act on their subjective survival beliefs
    • Statistically and economically significant effect of subjective survival on SS claiming for people working at 62

-elasticity of claiming probability with respect to survival probability = -1.24

this paper cont
This Paper (cont.)
  • Compare with predictions of objective survival probability based on same risk factors
    • Similar effect on SS claiming
    • Do not contain more information than subjective survival to explain SS claiming
  • Our findings suggest that people
    • have highly hetereogenous mortality expectations
    • their expectations are largely rational
    • they act on these beliefs in deciding when to claim Social Security benefits
the analytical samples
The Analytical Samples
  • Use data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS)
  • Follow HSZ and study 2 groups

1. People who are retired by age 62

    • Analyze SS claiming by age 64

2. People who are NOT retired by age 62

    • Analyze joint decision to retire and claim by age 64
early retiree sample claiming by those retired by age 62
79.2% claim in first year of eligibility

89.6% claim by third year

No effect of survival expectations

(all specifications)

Early Retiree Sample:Claiming by those retired by age 62

Months since 62nd birthday

late retiree sample claiming by those not retired by age 62
21.2% claim in first year of eligibility

62.2% claim by third year

Significant effects of survival expectations when corrected for measurement error

Late Retiree Sample:Claiming by those not retired by age 62

Age 65 spike

N=1801

Months since 62nd birthday

correcting for measurement errors
Correcting for Measurement Errors
  • Probabilistic beliefs about survival in HRS

(On a scale from 0 to 100)

What are the chances that you will live to be age 75 or more?

  • Measurement error: rounding and heaping at ‘50’ and ‘100’
  • Use Instrumental Variable methods to correct for measurement error

Four sets of instruments:

  • Basic demographic characteristics
  • Health variables (self-reported health and conditions)
  • Dummy variables on parental mortality (own and spouse)
  • Optimism index
heterogeneity of survival beliefs and measurement error
Survey measure of survival beliefs are quite noisy

many focal answers at “0”, “50” and “100”

Heterogeneity of Survival Beliefs and Measurement Error

Subjective Probability of Survival to Age 75

heterogeneity of survival beliefs and measurement error cont
But there is a lot of individual variability in subjective mortality risk based on risk factors

(see Table 5)

Heterogeneity of Survival Beliefs and Measurement Error (cont.)

Predicted Subjective Survival Probability

the effects of subjective survival expectations on claiming behavior
The effects of subjective survival expectations on claiming behavior
  • Bivariate probit model with demographics, health and wealth variables

Claim by 64 specification

Effect of subjective survivals on claiming

  • correction for measurement error increases magnitude of
  • effect by eight-fold
  • instrumented coefficient is highly significant based on boot-strapped
  • standard errors
the effects of subjective survival expectations on claiming behavior12
The effects of subjective survival expectations on claiming behavior
  • Bivariate probit model with demographics, health and wealth variables

Claim by 64 specification

Effect of subjective survival probability on claiming

the effects of objective survival expectations on claiming behavior
The effects of objective survival expectations on claiming behavior
  • Use data on 8 to 12 years actual mortality to estimate and “objective” probability of survival to age 75 using same variables as for IV
  • Bivariate probit model

Claim by 64 Specification

  • Similar effects of subjective and objective expectations on SS claiming
  • Objective expectations do not contain more information than subjective survivals to explain SS claiming
conclusion
Conclusion
  • Measurement errors in subjective probability are important
  • Mortality expectations have significant effect on SS claiming
  • People who expect to be long-lived delay claiming and enjoy larger benefits
    • Positive effect for the well-being of the elderly
    • Higher cost for tax payers
    • Ambiguous welfare effects on the whole population
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