Thursday, August 8, 2013

The option of suicide

Suicide is a trigger strategy and when to pull the trigger is a decision that involves forming expectations over future outcomes. It is a difficult decision, as future outcomes are very uncertain, if not difficult to quantify.

Shin Ikeda models the suicide decision as the decision to exercise an American option on future wages. Seen this way, the suicide option is straightforward to quantify once you have wage profiles of suicide candidates (to determine timing) and non-candidates (to determine future wage profiles, their distribution and how they may differ form suicide candidates). From anecdotal evidence, anxiety seems to be an important factor, thus modeling at least risk aversion right is very important, as well as bankruptcy. Unfortunately, this is not at all how the paper proceeds. Individuals are risk neutral, but returns are adjusted for market risk. Individuals hold no assets or debt, except their human capital. The wage process is identical for everybody. It is then no surprise that the results are not realistic, indicating that the strike price corresponds to 90% of the average initial wage in perpetuity, meaning that a majority of workers is at suicide risk at some point during their life. Any study in the value of life literature gives numbers much higher than this value, and this is because people value more than just wages. Instead of only looking at money flows, one needs to consider concepts like utility and preferences...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The author of this paper could have spent some time on spell-checking. There is an incredible number of typos. EL, why do you even bother with such papers?