NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Differential Mortality, Uncertain Medical Expenses, and the Saving of Elderly Singles

Mariacristina De Nardi, Eric French, John Bailey Jones

NBER Working Paper No. 12554
Issued in October 2006
NBER Program(s):   AG   HE   PE

People have heterogenous life expectancies: women live longer than men, rich people live longer than poor people, and healthy people live longer than sick people. People are also subject to heterogenous out-of-pocket medical expense risk. We construct a rich structural model of saving behavior for retired single households that accounts for this heterogeneity, and we estimate the model using AHEAD data and the method of simulated moments. We find that the risk of living long and facing high medical expenses goes a long way toward explaining the elderly's savings decisions. Specifically, medical expenses that rise quickly with both age and permanent income can explain why the elderly singles, and especially the richest ones, run down their assets so slowly. We also find that social insurance has a big impact on the elderly's savings.

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