The Impact of Biases in Survival Beliefs on Savings Behavior
60 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2017
Date Written: March 24, 2017
On average young people "undersave" whereas old people "oversave" with respect to the rational expectations model of life-cycle consumption and savings. According to numerous studies on subjective survival beliefs, young people also "underestimate" whereas old people "overestimate" their objective survival chances on average. We take a structural behavioral economics approach to jointly address both empirical phenomena by embedding subjective survival beliefs that are consistent with these biases into a rank-dependent utility (RDU) model over life-cycle consumption. The resulting consumption behavior is dynamically inconsistent. Considering both naive and sophisticated RDU agents we show that within this framework underestimation of young age and overestimation of old age survival probabilities may (but need not) give rise to the joint occurrence of undersaving and oversaving. In contrast to this RDU model, the familiar quasi-hyperbolic discounting (QHD), which is nested as a special case, cannot generate oversaving.
Keywords: saving puzzles, subjective survival beliefs, behavioral economics, prospect theory, neo-additive probability weighting, dynamic inconsistency, sophisticated versus naive behavior, quasi-hyperbolic discounting
JEL Classification: D91, D83, E21
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