Children and Household Utility: Evidence from Kids Flying the Coop

Norma B. Coe Anthony Webb

WP#2010-16

Abstract

Using consumption and wealth data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), this paper explores the impact of children leaving home on household consumption. We find that households maintain their household-level consumption, despite the fact that the number of individuals in the household has decreased, increasing per-capita consumption. Further, we find no evidence of increases in total net wealth, or any of its components, after children leave the household. These findings suggest that households do not dramatically change their savings or consumption patterns when their children fly the coop. Those households who are already behind in their retirement preparations will remain at risk of entering retirement with insufficient wealth to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living.