Expectations, Aging and Cognitive Decline
Chapter in NBER book Discoveries in the Economics of Aging (2014), David A. Wise, editor (p. 305 - 337)
We use longitudinal data from the HRS to document general patterns in expectations with respect to aging in various domains and investigate the potential role of cognitive decline in those patterns. We focus on two aspects of expectations: optimism and uncertainty. We estimate the effect of age controlling for cohort, selection and calendar time effects. With the notable exception of survival expectations, we find that optimism decreases with age in most domains. Uncertainty appears to increase with age in most cases except for survival expectations, but these findings are less robust. Using methods that minimize the likelihood of spurious associations due to survey noise, we show that cognitive decline plays a modest but statistically significant role in explaining the decline of optimism with age, again, with the exception of survival expectations. We do not find a role for cognitive decline in accounting for the increase in uncertainty.
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Comment, John B. Shoven
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