Precise or Imprecise Probabilities? Evidence from Survey Response Related to Late-Onset Dementia

Pamela Giustinelli, Charles F. Manski, Francesca Molinari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We elicit numerical expectations for late-onset dementia and long-term-care (LTC) outcomes in the US Health and Retirement Study. We provide the first empirical evidence on dementia-risk perceptions among dementia-free older Americans and establish important patterns regarding imprecision of subjective probabilities. Our elicitation distinguishes between precise and imprecise probabilities, while accounting for rounding of reports. Imprecise-probability respondents quantify imprecision using probability intervals. Nearly half of respondents hold imprecise dementia and LTC probabilities, while almost a third of precise-probability respondents round their reports. These proportions decrease substantially when LTC expectations are conditioned on hypothetical knowledge of the dementia state. Among rounding and imprecise-probability respondents, our elicitation yields two measures: an initial rounded or approximated response and a post-probe response, which we interpret as the respondent's true point or interval probability. We study the mapping between the two measures and find that respondents initially tend to over-report small probabilities and under-report large probabilities. Using a specific framework for study of LTC insurance choice with uncertain dementia state, we illustrate the dangers of ignoring imprecise or rounded probabilities for modeling and prediction of insurance demand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-221
Number of pages35
JournalJournal of the European Economic Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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