The Wharton School

In 1881, American entrepreneur and industrialist Joseph Wharton established the world’s first collegiate school of business at the University of Pennsylvania — a radical idea that revolutionized both business practice and higher education.

Since then, the Wharton School has continued innovating to meet mounting global demand for new ideas, deeper insights, and  transformative leadership. We blaze trails, from the nation’s first collegiate center for entrepreneurship in 1973 to our latest research centers in alternative investments and neuroscience.

Wharton's faculty members generate the intellectual innovations that fuel business growth around the world. Actively engaged with the leading global companies, governments, and non-profit organizations, they represent the world's most comprehensive source of business knowledge.

For more information, see the Research, Directory & Publications site.

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 199
  • Publication
    The Evolution of Retirement Risk Management
    (2010-01-01) Mitchell, Olivia S; Clark, Robert L
  • Publication
    How Will Persistent Low Expected Returns Shape Household Economic Behavior?
    (2018-10-02) Horneff, Vanya; Maurer, Raimond; Mitchell, Olivia S; Horneff, Vanya; Maurer, Raimond; Mitchell, Olivia S
    Many believe that global capital markets will generate lower returns in the future versus the past. We examine how persistently lower real returns will reshape work, retirement, saving, and investment behavior of older persons using a calibrated dynamic life cycle model. In a low return regime, workers build up less wealth in their tax-qualified 401(k) accounts versus the past, claim social security benefits later, and work more. Moreover, the better-educated are more sensitive to real interest rate changes, and the least-educated alter their behavior less. Interestingly, wealth inequality is lower in periods of persistent low expected returns.
  • Publication
    Asset Rich and Cash Poor: Retirement Provision and Housing Policy in Singapore
    (2002-11-01) Mitchell, Olivia S; Mitchell, Olivia S; Piggott, John
    National defined contribution pension systems have long been a mainstay of retirement income in Asia. One of the oldest and best known of these systems is the Singaporean Central Provident Fund, a mandatory retirement scheme managed by the central government for almost a half-century. With required contribution rates that have ranged up to 50%, this program has powerfully shaped asset accumulation patterns and housing portfolios. This paper explores how the structure and design of the Singaporean retirement and housing schemes influence wealth levels and asset mix at retirement. Our model indicates that outcomes rest critically on the interlinked national retirement and housing programs. We show that policies to enhance one program may boost retirement replacement rates but can also lower total wealth in unexpected ways. The lessons we draw may serve as guidance for other countries constructing a national defined contribution retirement system.
  • Publication
    Testing Methods to Enhance Longevity Awareness
    (2020-11-02) Mitchell, Olivia S; Mitchell, Olivia S; Sade, Orly
    Many people have only a vague notion of the concept of life expectancy and the longevity risk they face at older ages, which in turn implies that they are likely to undersave for retirement. This paper employs an online experiment to investigate alternative ways to describe both life expectancy and longevity risk, with the goal of assessing whether these can raise peoples’ awareness of possible retirement shortfalls. We also evaluate whether providing this information promotes interest in saving activity and demand for longevity insurance products. We find that providing longevity risk information impacts respondents’ subjective survival probabilities, while simply describing average life expectancy does not. Yet providing life expectancy or longevity information significantly affects financial decisions, mostly regarding annuitization. Interestingly, we also find that merely prompting people to think about financial decisions changes their perceptions regarding subjective survival probabilities.
  • Publication
    Factors Influencing the Choice of Pension Distribution at Retirement
    (2022-05-01) Mitchell, Olivia S; Mitchell, Olivia S
    One of the most important financial decisions that pension participants make concerns how they access their pension assets when they terminate employment with their plan sponsor. Their choices depend both on own preferences and the options offered by their retirement plan. This paper examines both past and future pension withdrawal choices for those with defined benefit and defined contribution pensions, separately. Our data are drawn from a set of pension distribution questions we fielded in the Understanding American Study. Results show significant differences in distribution choices based on the type of retirement plan, with individuals covered by defined benefit plans significantly more likely to select annuities compared to similar employees covered by defined contribution plans. We also find differences in how higher annual income affects annuity choices based on coverage by DB plans. Individuals with lower levels of financial literacy and lower annual income have less knowledge of basic pension characteristics.
  • Publication
    Complexity as a Barrier to Annuitization: Do Consumers Know How to Value Annuities?
    (2013-03-01) Brown, Jeffrey R; Kapteyn, Arie; Luttmer, Erzo FP; Mitchell, Olivia S; Brown, Jeffrey R; Kapteyn, Arie; Luttmer, Erzo FP; Mitchell, Olivia S
    This paper provides experimental evidence that individuals have difficulty valuing annuities, and this difficulty – rather than a preference for lump sums – can help explain observed low levels of annuity purchases. Although the median price at which people are willing to sell an annuity is close to median actuarial values, this masks notable heterogeneity in responses including substantial numbers of respondents whose responses are difficult to reconcile with optimizing behavior under any reasonable parameter assumptions. We also discover that people are willing to pay substantially less to buy a larger annuity, a result not due to liquidity constraints or endowment effects. Strikingly, we also learn that individual responses to the buy versus sell decisions are negatively correlated, an effect that is stronger for the less financially sophisticated. Our findings are consistent with boundedly rational consumers who adopt a “buy low, sell high” heuristic when faced with a complex trade-off. Moreover, at the margin, subjective valuations vary nearly one-for-one with actuarial values but are uncorrelated with utility-based measures designed to measure the insurance value of annuities. This supports the hypothesis that people use simplifying heuristics to think about annuities, rather than engaging in optimizing behavior. Results also underscore the difficulty of explaining the cross-sectional variation in annuity valuations using standard empirical models. Our findings raise doubt about whether most consumers can make optimal decisions about annuitization.
  • Publication
    Managing Contribution and Capital Market Risk in a Funded Public Defined Benefit Plan: Impact of CVaR Cost Constraints
    (2008-09-01) Maurer, Raimond; Mitchell, Olivia S; Rogalla, Ralph; Maurer, Raimond; Mitchell, Olivia S; Rogalla, Ralph
    Using a Monte Carlo framework, we analyze the risks and rewards of moving from an unfunded defined benefit pension system to a funded plan for German civil servants, allowing for alternative strategic contribution and investment patterns. In the process we integrate a Conditional Value at Risk (CVaR) restriction on overall plan costs into the pension manager’s objective of controlling contribution rate volatility. After estimating the contribution rate that would fully fund future benefit promises for current and prospective employees, we identify the optimal contribution and investment strategy that minimizes contribution rate volatility while restricting worst-case plan costs. Finally, we analyze the time path of expected and worst-case contribution rates to assess the chances of reduced contribution rates for current and future generations. Our results show that moving toward a funded public pension system can be beneficial for both civil servants and taxpayers.
  • Publication
    Behavioral Impediments to Valuing Annuities: Complexity and Choice Bracketing
    (2019-12-13) Brown, Jeffrey R; Kapteyn, Arie; Luttmer, Erzo F. P.; Mitchell, Olivia S; Samek, Anya
    This paper examines two behavioral factors that diminish people’s ability to value a lifetime income stream or annuity, drawing on a survey of about 4,000 adults in a U.S. nationally representative sample. By experimentally varying the degree of complexity, we provide the first causal evidence that increasing the complexity of the annuity choice reduces respondents’ ability to value the annuity, measured by the difference between the sell and buy values people assign to the annuity. We also find that people’s ability to value an annuity increases when we experimentally induce them to think jointly about the annuitization decision as well as how quickly or slowly to spend down assets in retirement. Accordingly, we conclude that narrow choice bracketing is an impediment to annuitization, yet this impediment can be mitigated with a relatively straightforward intervention.
  • Publication
    How Family Status and Social Security Claiming Options Shape Optimal Life Cycle Portfolios
    (2013-10-01) Hubener, Andreas; Maurer, Raimond; Mitchell, Olivia S; Hubener, Andreas; Maurer, Raimond; Mitchell, Olivia S
    Household decisions are profoundly shaped by a complex set of financial options due to Social Security rules determining retirement, spousal, and survivor benefits, along with benefit adjustments that vary with the age at which these are claimed. These rules influence optimal household asset allocation, insurance, and work decisions, given life cycle demographic shocks such as marriage, divorce, and children. Our model generates a wealth profile and a low and stable equity fraction consistent with empirical evidence. We also confirm predictions that wives will claim retirement benefits earlier than husbands, while life insurance is mainly purchased by younger men. Our policy simulations imply that eliminating survivor benefits would sharply reduce claiming differences by sex while dramatically increasing men’s life insurance purchases.
  • Publication
    Workplace-Linked Pensions for an Aging Demographic
    (2016-01-01) Mitchell, Olivia S; Piggott, John
    Pensions and population aging intersect in two ways. First, demographic change threatens the sustainability of traditional pay-as-you-go social security pensions, leaving workplace-linked pensions with a greater role in retirement provision. Second, as the Baby Boom generation enters retirement, new challenges arise around its retirement support. This chapter reviews some of the implications of population aging for workplace pensions in this new environment, outlines market considerations important for workplace-related pension design for the future, and discusses how governments can create an environment supportive of workplace-related pensions, should they wish to do so. We conclude that workplace-linked retirement saving systems will be asked to do even more than in the past, given the financial stress that pay-as-you-go governmentrun Social Security plans are confronting in the face of an aging demographic. This will require further product innovation and additional research.