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Abstract

Buffering Shocks to Well-Being Late in Life
Matthew D. Shapiro
WP 2009-211

Consumption provides a comprehensive measurement of economic well-being. This research shows that consumption is well-insured with respect to health status and widowing. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and its CAMS supplement, it shows that consumption responds little to changes in health status even though adverse health generates substantial out-of-pocket medical expenses. Similarly, the effect of widowing on consumption, though substantial, is not strongly driven by changes in economic resources. Men experience little loss of monetary resources when being widowed. Women have the same overall loss in consumption as men when being widowed despite greater declines in economic resources. Hence, despite the adverse consequences for income and wealth for female widows, women experience no greater drop in consumption from losing a spouse than do men.

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