Test-Retest Reliability of Subjective Survival Expectations

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This paper analyzes the test-retest reliability of subjective survival expectations.
Using a nationally representative sample from the Netherlands, we compare probabilities reported by the same individuals in two different surveys that were fielded in the same month. We evaluate reliability both at the level of reported probabilities and through a model that relates expectations to socio-demographic variables. Test-retest correlations of survival probabilities are between 0.5 and 0.7, which is similar to subjective well-being (Krueger and Skade, 2008). Correlations are weaker and averages differ more among respondents above the age of 65, which calls into question data quality for older respondents. Only 20% of probabilities are equal across surveys, but up to
61-77% are consistent once we account for rounding. Models that analyze all probabilities jointly reveal that similar associations emerge between covariates and the hazard of death in both datasets. Moreover, expectations are persistent at the level of the individual as indicated by the importance of individual effects. This unobserved heterogeneity is strongly correlated across surveys. Taken together this evidence supports the reliability of subjective survival expectations.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016

Publication series

NameNetspar Academic Paper
VolumeDP 09/2016-035


  • subjective expectations
  • life expectancy
  • test-retest reliability
  • rounding


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