Working paper

Risk-sensitive preferences and age-dependent risk aversion

Ageing Household finance Welfare state Australia


People in different age groups have shown to differ in their degrees of risk aversion. This study investigates the macroeconomic implications of population aging when households are assumed to be increasingly risk-averse in future utility when they age. The model incorporates risk-sensitive preferences used by Hansen & Sargent (1995), which are the only recursive preferences that can separate risk aversion and intertemporal elasticity of substitution while being monotonic, into a 16-generation discrete-time OLG model with undiversifiable income risk. Compared to a time-additive counterpart, risk-sensitive preferences capture precautionary saving motives that exacerbate adverse response of aggregate macroeconomic variables under a population aging scenario through demographic re-weighting and life-cycle redistrivution channels. Varying risk aversion also allows households to internalize future uncertanties when evaluating their welfare impacts of demographic change, resulting in non-monochomatic welfare dynamics with higher welfare loss under a high-risk environment and vice versa. Risk-sensitive preferences with age-dependent risk aversion can play an important role in optimal policy settings by introducing uncertainties into the welfare impact analysis, while taking into account more realistic risk-taking behaviour of different age cohorts.

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