Demand for annuities: Price sensitivity, risk perceptions, and knowledge


The demand for voluntary individual lifetime annuities is low, as merely 10% of soon-to-be retired Canadians care to buy such contracts. To assess the reasons why, we design a stated-preference experiment in which we vary characteristics of annuity contracts to estimate individuals’ sensitivity to an annuity’s money’s worth (that is, the value-to-cost ratio). Using different measures of longevity risk and survival expectations, we investigate how knowledge of annuity products and mortality risk misperceptions affect the take-up and the sensitivity of the demand for annuities. We find that annuities are objectively actuarially neutral in general (meaning that annuity premiums are equal to their expected payment), and can appear to offer great value for the money given an individual’s subjective mortality risk. We also find that demand is somewhat price-inelastic so that lowering the price of annuities could increase demand by at most 2 percentage points for a base of 10%. Lack of knowledge of annuities explains another 0.8 percentage points. We find limited additional interest for deferred annuities compared to immediate annuities, although respondents are less sensitive to deferred annuity prices.

Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization
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Sébastien Box-Couillard
Sébastien Box-Couillard
Ph.D. Candidate in Applied Economics

I am a Ph.D. candidate in Agricultural and Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. My research interests lie at the intersection of environmental and urban economics. I am particularily interested in interactions between inequality, discrimination, housing markets and natural disasters.