Understanding joint retirement

P.C. Michaud, Arthur van Soest, L. Bissonnette

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Evidence from different sources shows that spouses’ retirement decisions are correlated. Retirement policies affecting individuals in couples are therefore also likely to affect behavior of their spouses. It is therefore important to account for joint features in modeling retirement. This paper studies a structural collective model of labor supply and retirement of both partners in a couple with interdependent preferences, imperfect knowledge of preferences of the spouse, and subjective expectations about the future. We propose a novel method to estimate preferences and the intra-household bargaining process, which relies on stated preferences data collected in the Health and Retirement Study. Respondents were asked to choose between hypothetical retirement trajectories describing the retirement ages and replacement rates of both spouses from three perspectives: considering their own preferences only, the preferences of their spouse only, or the most likely decision for the household. With these data, all model parameters are identified and potential sources of joint retirement can be disentangled. Our results suggest that males misperceive their wives’ preferences, overestimating their disutility of work. Our estimates correct for this. We find strong positive correlations between preferences for joint leisure (leisure complementarity) of the two partners. Counterfactual simulations with stylized retirement paths suggest that the leisure complementarities explain a substantial part of joint retirement, much more than correlation in unobserved heterogeneity or potential wage rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-401
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • collective models
  • leisure complementarity
  • stated choices
  • identification


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