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Is Housing Wealth a Sideshow?

In: Advances in the Economics of Aging

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  • Jonathan S. Skinner

Abstract

Do housing price fluctuations play an important role in the economic security of retirees, or is housing wealth just a sideshow to the determination of consumption and saving? Using panel data on saving from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and aggregate time- series data, I find that shifts in housing wealth do affect consumption and saving, especially for younger households. On the other hand, few elderly households appear to be tapping into their housing windfalls to finance retirement consumption. The precautionary saving approach can explain this puzzle. If housing wealth rises, households require less insurance against future contingencies, and will respond by spending more out of (nonhousing) wealth. But not every elderly household encounters a bad outcome requiring the liquidation of household equity. Hence the median elderly family will not actively spend housing windfalls. The theoretical and empirical results therefore suggest that housing wealth is not a sideshow.

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This chapter was published in:

  • David A. Wise, 1996. "Advances in the Economics of Aging," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wise96-1.
    This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 7327.

    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:7327

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    1. Stephen Zeldes, . "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 20-86, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
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    6. Christopher D. Carroll & Andrew A. Samwick, 1992. "The nature and magnitude of precautionary wealth," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 124, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    7. Michael D. Hurd & David A. Wise, 1989. "The Wealth and Poverty of Widows: Assets Before and After the Husband's Death," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 177-200 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Chunrong Ai & Jonathan Feinstein & Daniel L. McFadden & Henry Pollakowski, 1990. "The Dynamics of Housing Demand by the Elderly: User Cost Effects," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 33-88 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Skinner, Jonathan, 1989. "Housing wealth and aggregate saving," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 305-324, May.
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    16. Jonathan S. Skinner, 1994. "Housing and Saving in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Housing Markets in the U.S. and Japan, pages 191-214 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Caballero, Ricardo J, 1991. "Earnings Uncertainty and Aggregate Wealth Accumulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 859-71, September.
    18. Shefrin, Hersh M & Thaler, Richard H, 1988. "The Behavioral Life-Cycle Hypothesis," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 26(4), pages 609-43, October.
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