Life Insurance of the Elderly: Adequacy and Determinants

Alan J. Auerbach, Laurence J. Kotlikoff

NBER Working Paper No. 1737 (Also Reprint No. r0870)
Issued in October 1985
NBER Program(s):Monetary Economics, Public Economics

Despite a general reduction in poverty among the aged, roughly one third of elderly nonmarried women are officially poor. Many of these women are widows.The fact that poverty rates are significantly larger for widows than for married women suggests that many households may fail to buy sufficient life insurance.This paper considers the adequacy and determinants of life insurance among the elderly. Its principal conclusions are:(1) Combined private and public life insurance is inadequate for a significant minority of elderly households;(2) Of those elderly households in which the husband's future income representsa significant fraction of total household resources, roughly half are inadequately insured;(3) Households do not significantly offset Social Security's provision of survivor insurance by reducing their private purchase of life insurance; and(4) The actual determinants of the purchase of life insurance appear to differ greatly from those predicted by economic theory.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1737


  • Auerbach, Alan and Laurence Kotlikoff. "Life Insurance of the Elderly: Adequacy and Determinants,"Work, Health and Income Among the Elderly, G. Burtlss, ed. Washington: Brookings, 1987. pp. 29-67.
  • Auerbach, Alan J. and Laurence J. Kotlikoff. "The Adequacy Of Life Insurance Purchases," Journal of Financial Intermediation, 1991, v1(3), 215-241.

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