The Assets and Liabilities of Cohorts: The Antecedents of Retirement Security

Published: 2013
Project ID: UM13-11


This interdisciplinary proposal uses repeated cross-sectional data from the Survey of Consumer Finances to characterize cohort patterns of net worth and debt. Cohort patterns are useful to study for several reasons. First, they provide a useful benchmark for identifying potentially vulnerable households. Second, we are able to examine correlations between the position in the cohort distribution of net worth (or debt) and attitudinal and consumer behavior factors thought to be related to financial capability. These correlations may be useful for predicting the well-being of households over the life course and ultimately in retirement. Third, the long time period covered by our data (for some analyses, starting as early as 1962) is nicely suited for examining the effects of macroeconomic factors, such as financial market returns, housing returns, the changing pension landscape, and wage growth, in understanding the financial circumstances of American households.