Evaluating the Accuracy of Counterfactuals The Role of Heterogeneous Expectations in Life Cycle Models

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This paper shows that subjective survey information on survival expectations can be used to improve the out-of-sample predictions of a dynamic model of retirement and saving. We consider three approaches to model survival: life tables, average subjective expectations and individual-specific estimates based on reported survival probabilities. The models are estimated on Dutch data from the 1990s, a period during which workers could retire from age 59 at no actuarial penalty to pension benefits. Such actuarial adjustments were introduced in the early 2000s and we use data from the period 2006-2016 to evaluate the accuracy of the counterfactual predictions. While the three models yield different preference estimates, their within-sample fit is similar. Out-of-sample forecasts do differ markedly. The models based on homogeneous expectations anticipate a 4-5-year increase in the average retirement age in the new regime, compared with an observed increase of 2.6 years. The model with heterogeneous expectations, on the other hand, predicts a more realistic increase of 2.7 years. We conclude that expectations matter when it comes to counterfactual predictions, even if different combinations of preferences and expectations appear equivalent within a given institutional setting.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
PublisherCentER, Center for Economic Research
Number of pages99
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2021

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • Subjective expectations
  • life cycle model


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