Intergenerational Transfers in the Health and Retirement Study Data
John P. Laitner and Amanda Sonnega
Many economic analyses of public policy issues are based upon the life-cycle model of household behavior. The usual formulation omits private intergenerational transfers. This paper considers the possibility of a more sophisticated formulation that includes the latter. We examine 1992-2008 HRS data on inheritances and inter vivos gifts. We uncover an underreporting problem in the data: a household’s financial respondent often seems to understate transfers from his/her in-laws. Nevertheless, other aspects of the data seem very useful. About 30-40 percent of households eventually inherit. Inheritances seem to reflect a mixture of intentional and accidental bequests, with the latter twice as prevalent.
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