Compensatory Inter Vivos Gifts

Parents’ transfer motives are important for understanding, e.g., macroeconomics, income (re)distribution, savings, and public finance. Using data from six biennial waves of the Health and Retirement Study 1992–2002, we estimate grouped tobit-type latent variable models with multi-level error components. First, we find that inter vivos transfers from parents to children are gifts, and not temporary help to overcome liquidity constraints. Second, inter vivos gifts are compensatory in the sense that life-time poorer children will receive higher transfers than their life-time richer siblings. Third, inter vivos gifts do not, however, make up the entire difference in life-time incomes.

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