Actual and Anticipated Inheritance Receipts

Norma B. Coe Anthony Webb

WP#2009-32

Abstract

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we compare actual inheritances received during the period 1994 to 2004 with the amounts that, in 1994, households anticipated receiving within 10 years.  We find little evidence of systematic forecasting errors.  The factors affecting inheritance receipt also affect expectation formation. Although the distribution is highly skewed, inheritances are generally modest in amount and uncorrelated with lifetime income, and therefore have almost no effect on various measures of inequality.  We find no evidence that households anticipating receipt of an inheritance save less than that of similar households, although this could reflect unobserved heterogeneity in tastes for saving.