David Weil

David Weil
Brown University · Department of Economics

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108
Publications
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Publications

Publications (108)
Article
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Does a person's historical lineage influence his or her current economic status? Motivated by a large literature in the social sciences stressing the effect of an early transition to agriculture on current economic performance at the country level, we examine the relative contemporary status of individuals as a function of how much their ancestors...
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This chapter considers the stylized facts regarding the strong nexus between economic development and health, as reflected by the famous Preston curve. By providing a decomposition of the reasons for recent increases in life expectancy, in terms of increased income (shifts along the Preston curve) and shifts of the Preston Curve, the chapter questi...
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Older Americans have experienced dramatic gains in life expectancy in recent decades, but an emerging literature reveals that these gains are accumulating mostly to those at the top of the income distribution. We explore how growing inequality in life expectancy affects lifetime benefits from Social Security, Medicare and other programmes and how t...
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I examine recent changes in African mortality and discuss their potential economic and demographic effects. Growth in life expectancy sharply departed from its trend after 1990, and then experienced a sharp acceleration after 2005. This latter acceleration was due overwhelmingly to improvements in HIV and malaria. Economists differ in their estimat...
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UNGATED FULL TEXT AVAILABLE HERE: https://sites.google.com/site/adamstoreygard/hssw.pdf We explore the role of natural characteristics in determining the worldwide spatial distribution of economic activity, as proxied by lights at night, observed across 240,000 grid cells. A parsimonious set of 24 physical geography attributes explains 47% of worl...
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We examine the effect of malaria on economic development in Africa over the very long run. Using data on the prevalence of the mutation that causes sickle cell disease, we measure the impact of malaria on mortality in Africa prior to the period in which formal data were collected. Our estimate is that in the more afflicted regions, malaria lowered...
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As populations age, the degree to which workers’ human capital reflects the cutting edge of technology falls because education took place further in the past. This “pure vintage” effect of aging is well known. In this paper, we explore a second effect of aging: In an older population, older teachers pass on knowledge that was current further in the...
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In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Piketty uses the market value of tradable assets to measure both productive capital and wealth. As a measure of wealth this is problematic because it ignores the value of human capital and transfer wealth, which have grown enormously over the last 300 years. Thus the constancy of the wealth/income rati...
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This book explores the relationship between the material standard of living and health, both across countries and over time. Above all, Deaton is interested in the question of whether income growth contributes significantly to better health. His answer is no: saving lives in poor countries is not expensive, and there are many episodes of massive he...
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This chapter examines the relationship between health and economic growth. Across countries, income per capita is highly correlated with health, as measured by life expectancy or a number of other indicators. Within countries, there is also a correlation between people's health and income. Finally, over time, the historical evolution of cross-count...
Chapter
An extensive literature examines the impact of disease generally, and malaria in particular, on economic development in the world today. Malaria is especially a focus in Africa because of the high prevalence of the disease. h ere are some 300 million malaria cases annually on the continent, and it is the leading cause of under-i ve mortality. A wid...
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We study the mobile phone-based money transfer system in Kenya. Based on aggregate data, we estimate that the velocity with which units of e-money are transferred among users is approximately four times per month, and that the average number of transfers undergone by a unit of e-money between its creation and destruction is approximately one. Most...
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We assess quantitatively the effect of exogenous reductions in fertility on output per capita. Our simulation model allows for effects that run through schooling, the size and age structure of the population, capital accumulation, parental time input into childrearing, and crowding of fixed natural resources. The model is parameterized using a comb...
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Using recently available large-sample micro data from 36 countries, we document that experience-earnings profiles are flatter in poor countries than in rich countries. Motivated by this fact, we conduct a development accounting exercise that allows the returns to experience to vary across countries but is otherwise standard. When the country-specif...
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We examine the effects of population aging due to declining fertility and rising elderly life expectancy on consumption possibilities in the presence of intergenerational transfers. Our analysis is based on a highly tractable continuous-time overlapping generations model in which the population is divided into three groups (youth dependents, worker...
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The traditional view that natural riches increase the wealth of nations has been recently challenged by empirical findings that point out that natural inputs are negatively related to growth. This paper shows, within a two-sector neo-classical growth model with international trade in goods, that these two views can be reconciled. Natural inputs dir...
Article
We assess quantitatively the effect of exogenous reductions in fertility on output per capita. Our simulation model allows for effects that run through schooling, the size and age structure of the population, capital accumulation, parental time input into child-rearing, and crowding of fixed natural resources. The model is parameterized using a com...
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M-Pesa is a mobile phone based money transfer system in Kenya which grew at a blistering pace following its inception in 2007. We examine how M-Pesa is used as well as its economic impacts. Analyzing data from two waves of individual data on financial access in Kenya, we find that increased use of M-Pesa lowers the propensity of people to use infor...
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The quantity of human-generated light visible from outer space reflects variation in both population density and income per capita. In this paper we explore the usefulness of the change in visible light as a measure of GDP growth. We discuss the data, and then present a statistical framework that uses lights growth to augment existing income growth...
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Whenever a country specializes on industries that use female labor intensively, its female labor force participation should increase. This intuition, which bases on the Stolper-Samuleson Theorem, may fail in a three-factor, two-good model. We develop a model where capital, male and female work are distinct factors of production. We follow an establ...
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We construct a matrix showing the share of the year 2000 population in every country that is descended from people in different source countries in the year 1500. Using the matrix to adjust indicators of early development so that they reflect the history of a population's ancestors rather than the history of the place they live today greatly improv...
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I examine the economic effects of disease and disease control. I consider both the effect of disease on conventionally measured GDP and also the monetary equivalent of the utility benefits from lower mortality. Regarding the effects on conventional GDP, I evaluate a number of approaches including cross-country regression (with and without instrumen...
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Poor families around the world spend a large fraction of their income consuming goods that do not appear to alleviate poverty, while saving at low rates. We suggest that individuals care about economic status and hence we interpret this behavior as conspic-uous consumption that is intended to provide a signal about unobserved income. We show that i...
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Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of preventable mental retardation in the world today. Iodine deficiency was common in the developed world until the introduction of iodized salt in the 1920's. The incidence of iodine deficiency is connected to low iodine levels in the soil and water. We examine the impact of salt iodization in the US by takin...
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We examine the role of declining mortality in explaining the rise of retirement over the course of the twentieth century. We construct a model in which individuals make labor/leisure choices over their lifetimes subject to uncertainty about their dates of death. In an environment with high mortality, an individual who saves for retirement faces a h...
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This paper reconciles the traditional view that land increases the wealth of nations with recent empirical findings that point out that natural inputs such as land are negatively related to growth. Our theory shows, whithin a two-sector neoclassical growth model with international trade in goods, that land directly affects both long-run income and...
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This paper presents novel empirical evidence on the impact of access to abortion on sex ratios at birth (SRB), excess female mortality (EFM) and fertility in Taiwan. For identification, we exploit plausibly exogenous variation in the availability of sex-selective abortion caused by the legalization of abortion. Our results show that the legalizatio...
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Economic growth is typically measured as the change in per capita gross domestic product (GDP). Sustained long-term economic growth at a positive rate is a fairly recent phenomenon in human history, most of it having occurred in the last 200 years. According to Maddison’s (2001) estimates, per capita GDP in the world economy was no higher in the ye...
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Since 2003, Zambia has been engaged in a large-scale, centrally coordinated national anti-Malaria campaign which has become a model in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper aims at quantifying the individual and macro level benefits of this campaign, which involved mass distribution of insecticide treated mosquito nets, intermittent preventive treatment f...
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This paper sheds light on two problems in the Penn World Table (PWT) GDP estimates. First, we show that these estimates vary substantially across different versions of the PWT despite being derived from very similar underlying data and using almost identical methodologies; that this variability is systematic; and that it is intrinsic to the methodo...
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We argue that education exerts positive external effects on health, beyond the standard internal ef-fects documented in the literature. We implement an innovative approach to control for endogeneity and omitted variables problems and present evidence for the significant role played by higher education in ex-plaining longevity across countries. Our...
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This paper sheds light on two problems— variability and valuation— in the Penn World Table (PWT) GDP estimates. We show that these estimates vary substantially across di¤erent versions of the PWT; that this variability is systematic; and that it is intrinsic to the methodology deployed by the PWT to estimate growth rates. Moreover, this variability...
Article
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We develop a statistical framework to use satellite data on night lights to augment official income growth measures. For countries with poor national income accounts, the optimal estimate of growth is a composite with roughly equal weights on conventionally measured growth and growth predicted from lights. Our estimates differ from official data by...
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We assess quantitatively the effect of exogenous health improvements on output per capita. Our simulation model allows for a direct effect of health on worker productivity, as well as indirect effects that run through schooling, the size and age-structure of the population, capital accumulation, and crowding of fixed natural resources. The model is...
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To examine the impact of Internet use on corruption we develop a novel identi…cation strategy for Internet di¤usion. Power disruptions damage digital equipment. This increases the user cost of IT capital, which in turn lowers the speed of Internet di¤usion. A natural phenomenon causing power disruptions is lightning activity. Using global satellite...
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We propose an economic theory of infectious disease transmission and rational behavior. Diseases are costly due to mortality (infected individuals can die prematurely) and morbidity (lower productivity and quality of life). Our model offers three main insights. First, a greater prevalence of diseases implies a lower savings-investment propensity be...
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In the past century, more people have perished from famine than from both world wars combined. Yet we know little about why the intensity of famines can vary so much geo-graphically or what the long run e¤ects of exposure are to survivors. This paper addresses both of these questions in the context of China's Great Famine. We …rst show a novel sour...
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The study estimates an empirical model of return intentions using a dataset compiled from an internet survey of Turkish professionals residing abroad. In the migration literature, wage differentials are often cited as an important factor explaining skilled migration. The findings of our study suggest, however, that non-pecuniary factors, such as th...
Chapter
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Population ageing is primarily the result of past declines in fertility, which produced a decades-long period in which the ratio of dependents to working-age adults was reduced. Rising old-age dependency in many countries represents the inevitable passing of this ‘demographic dividend’. Societies use three methods to transfer resources to people in...
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Economic growth is the increase in a country’s standard of living over time. Growth economists study how living standards differ across countries as well as across time. This article discusses some of the broad facts of economic growth and some of the main approaches to its study.
Article
I use microeconomic estimates of the effect of health on individual outcomes to construct macroeconomic estimates of the proximate effect of health on GDP per capita. I employ a variety of methods to construct estimates of the return to health, which I combine with cross-country and historical data on height, adult survival rates, and age at menarc...
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I use microeconomic estimates of the effect of health on individual outcomes to construct macroeconomic estimates of the proximate effect of health on GDP per capita. I employ a variety of methods to construct estimates of the return to health, which I combine with cross-country and historical data on height, adult survival rates, and age at menarc...
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From 1935 to 1963 a malaria eradication campaign in Sri Lanka reduced incidence from 97% of the population to 17 cases. This paper combines this exogenous malaria eradication campaign and the pre-existing heterogenous malaria levels in Sri Lanka with two household surveys to identify the e¤ect of malaria eradication on fertility, survival, and huma...
Article
I use microeconomic estimates of the effect of health on individual outcomes to construct macroeconomic estimates of the proximate effect of health on GDP per capita. I use a variety of methods to construct estimates of the return to health, which I combine with cross-country and historical data on several health indicators including height, adult...
Article
Population aging is primarily the result of past declines in fertility, which produced a decades long period in which the ratio of dependents to working age adults was reduced. Rising old-age dependency in many countries represents the inevitable passing of this %u201Cdemographic dividend.%u201D Societies use three methods to transfer resources to...
Article
Population aging is primarily the result of past declines in fertility, which produced a decades long period in which the ratio of dependents to working age adults was reduced. Rising old-age dependency in many countries represents the inevitable passing of this 'demographic dividend'. Societies use three methods to transfer resources to people in...
Article
This paper addresses two issues. The first is whether demographic change was plausibly responsible for the run‐up in stock prices over the last decade, and whether an attempt by the baby boom cohort to cash out of its investments in the period 2010–2030 might lead to an “asset meltdown”. The second issue is whether the rise in dependency tha...
Article
We use development accounting techniques to assess the contribution of health to differences in income per capita among countries. Rather than rely on regressions in aggregate data, we build up estimates of the effect of health starting from microeconomic data. We examine both a particular condition, anemia, and a proxy for general health, the adul...
Article
Full-text available
We use development accounting techniques to assess the contribution of health to differences in income per capita among countries. Rather than rely on regressions in aggregate data, we build up estimates of the effect of health starting from microeconomic data. We examine both a particular condition, anemia, and a proxy for general health, the adul...
Article
Full-text available
This paper addresses two issues. The first is whether demographic change was plausibly responsible for the run-up in stock prices over the last decade, and whether an attempt by the baby boom cohort to cash out of its investments in the period 2010-2030 might lead to an "asset meltdown". The second issue is whether the rise in dependency that will...
Article
Full-text available
We present a microeconomic model of the household under which there exists no di®erence in spousal preferences but where childrearing is more time costly for women. Bargaining between the wife and the husband forms the basis of household decisions. Marital bargaining power is determined endogenously according to the relative labor in-come of the sp...
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Massimo Livi-Bacci has taken us on a fascinating tour of demographic history. What lessons for developments in the world today can we draw from the story he tells? I will distinguish between three types of lessons, which I call “economic lessons, ” “demographic lessons, ” and “cultural/political lessons.” The economic lessons that we might look for...
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I show that non-convexities in technology, assumed in the capi-tal market imperfection literature on the relationship between income distribution and economic growth, can be replaced by an assumption that the bequest function is convex with respect to income.
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We examine the role of increased life expectancy in raising human capital investment during the process of economic growth. We develop a continuous time, overlapping generations model in which individuals make optimal schooling investment choices in the face of a constant probability of death. We present analytic results, followed by results from a...
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This paper develops a unified growth model that captures the historical evolution of population, technology, and output. It encompasses the endogenous transition between three regimes that have characterized economic development. The economy evolves from a Malthusian regime, where technological progress is slow and population growth prevents any su...
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Saving and growth are strongly positively correlated across countries. Recent empirical evidence suggests that this correlation holds largely because high growth leads to high saving, not the other way around. This evidence is difficult to reconcile with standard growth models, since forward-looking consumers with standard utility should save less...
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This special issue of the European Journal of Population focuses on possible economic consequences of low fertility in Europe. This introduction reviews the history of falling fertility in Europe and the literature that explores its causes, its potential implications, and possible policy responses. It also summarizes the evolution of thinking about...
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A lo largo de la historia econ�mica moderna, los salarios reales han sido un buen indicador del nivel de vida material de la clase trabajadora. Este documento presenta series de salarios reales para diferentes sectores y �pocas en Colombia. Apoy�ndonos en datos compilados por varios autores, nuestra principal conclusi�n es que a lo largo de los �lt...
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This paper develops a unified model of growth, population, and technological progress that is consistent with long-term historical evidence. The economy endogenously evolves through three phases. In the Malthusian regime, population growth is positively related to the level of income per capita. Technological progress is slow and is matched by prop...
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We model growth and technology transfer in a world where technologies are specific to particular combinations of inputs. Unlike the usual specification, our model does not imply that an improvement in one technique for producing a given good improves all other techniques for producing that good. Technology improvements diffuse slowly across countri...
Article
This paper develops a unified model of growth, population, and technological progress that is consistent with long-term historical evidence. The economy endogenously evolves through three phases. In the Malthusian regime, population growth is positively related to the level of income per capita. Technological progress is slow and is matched by prop...
Article
This chapter explores the ways in which changing the age structure of the population in the macroeconomic models affects variables, such as consumption, wages, government spending, and saving. The chapter also presents the basic data on the ways in which the age structure of the population is evolving over time, considers the effects of population...
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We examine a model in which per capita income, inequality, intergenerational mobility, and returns to education are all determined endogenously. Individuals earn wages depending on their ability, which is a random variable. They purchase an education with transfers received from their parents, and are subject to liquidity constraints. In the model,...
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We examine the creation of Social Security during the Great Depression, and how it has evolved since, asking in particular to what extent the program as it exists today is the same as that created in 1935 and 1939. We find that there has been surprising continuity. Much of the program's growth was built in from its inception. The replacement rate a...
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This paper examines popular advice on portfolio allocation among cash, bonds, and stocks. It documents that this advice is inconsistent with the mutual-fund separation theorem, which states that all investors should hold the same composition of risky assets. In contrast to the theorem, popular advisors recommend that aggressive investors hold a low...
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We examine the dynamics of two endogenous-growth models in which agents have comparison utility. In the inward-looking economy, individuals care about how their current consumption compares with their own past consumption. In the outward-looking economy, they care about how their own consumption compares with other people's consumption. In response...
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The authors study the relationship of news to bond prices. They select a set of major news events based solely on their significance as judged by historians and examine the corresponding bond price movements. The variance of holding returns is higher for weeks with important news than for weeks without such news, and the probability of a very large...
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This paper examines a novel mechanism linking fertility and growth. There are three components to the model: first, increases in capital per worker raise women's relative wages, since capital is more complementary to women's labor input than to men's. Second, increasing women's relative wages reduces fertility by raising the cost of children more t...
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This paper constructs a unique cohort data set to study the changes since 1960 in the share of Americans' resources that are annuitized. Understanding these changes is important because the larger this share, the more cohorts are likely to consume and the less they are likely to bequeath. Hence, the degree of annuitization affects national saving a...
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This paper examines changes over time in the importance of the lending channel in the transmission of monetary shocks to the real economy. We first use a simple extension of the Bernanke-Blinder model to isolate the observable factors that affect the strength of the lending channel. We then show that based on changes in the structure of banks asset...
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Examination of household (micro) data on the elderly has generally concluded that they do not dissave significantly, whereas estimates using aggregate (macro) data have shown that the presence of a large elderly population leads to a lower saving rate. This paper shows that if interactions between generations are important, one would not expect the...
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We take issue with Angelini's (1994) claim that the founding of the Federal Reserve was not responsible for a change in the stochastic process followed by short-term interest rates. We argue that Angelini's failure to reject the null hypothesis of no regime change around the date of the founding of the Fed is due to the low power of his test.
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Research on intergenerational transmission of wealth has pointed to uncertainty -- about the date of one's own death, for example -- as a potential source of significant bequest flows. In this paper I examine the effects of this same uncertainty on the behavior of those who expect to receive bequests. Potential heirs who are prudent will consume le...
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We examine the relationship between income growth and saving using both cross-country and household data. At the aggregate level, we find that growth Granger causes saving, but saving does not Granger cause growth. Using household data, we find that households with predictably higher income growth save more than households with predictably low grow...
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We study the relationship of non-quantitative news to bond prices. We select a set of major news events based solely on their significance as judged by historians, and examine the corresponding bond price movements. We find strong evidence that news has some influence on bond price movements, but we find no evidence that news can explain more than...
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This paper examines changes over time in the degree to which the resources (human plus nonhuman wealth) of the elderly have been annuitized. Using data from the 1962 and 1983 Federal Reserve Surveys of Consumer Finances we find evidence of an increase in annuitization which is particularly pronounced among the older elderly (those over 75) and amon...
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This paper examines the degree to which the elderly reduce homeownership as they age, and the factors which influence this process. We find that average levels of homeownership decline significantly with age, even when cohort effects are taken into consideration, and that the amount of housing held by people near death is quite low compared to what...
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This paper examines whether the Solow growth model is consistent with the international variation in the standard of living. It shows that an augmented Solow model that includes accumulation of human as well as physical capital provides an excellent description of the cross-country data. The paper also examines the implications of the Solow model f...