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Revisiting the Income Effect: Gasoline Prices and Grocery Purchases

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  • Gicheva, Dora
  • Hastings, Justine
  • Villas-Boas, Sofia B

Abstract

This paper examines the importance of income effects in purchase decisions for every-day products by analyzing the effect of gasoline prices on grocery expenditures. Using detailed scanner data from a large grocery chain as well as data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), we show that consumers re-allocate their expenditures across and within food-consumption categories in order to offset necessary increases in gasoline expenditures when gasoline prices rise. We show that gasoline expenditures rise one-for-one with gasoline prices, consumers substitute away from food-away-from-home and towards groceries in order to partially offset their increased expenditures on gasoline, and that within grocery category, consumers substitute away from regular shelf-price products and towards promotional items in order to save money on overall grocery expenditures. On average, consumers are able to decrease the net price paid per grocery item by 5-11% in response to a 100% increase in gasoline prices. We find evidence that this consumer substitution effect happens given retail price adjustments due to pass-though of higher gasoline prices into retail prices, by investigating two price indexes; one that uses shelf-prices and one that uses prices net of promotional discounts (net-prices are equal to shelf-prices if there is no discount). We assess the effect of gasoline prices on each of the price indexes, controlling for store-level fixed-effects and regional time trends, finding a 5 percent increase in net prices as a result of a 100 percent increase in gasoline prices. Product prices appear to adjust flexibly with gasoline prices through the size of discounts and promotions, which change weekly (or by-weekly) even though shelf-prices remain stable. Our results show that consumers respond to permanent changes in income from gasoline prices by substituting towards lower-cost food at the grocery store and lower priced items within grocery category. The substitution away from full-priced items towards sale items has implications for microeconomic demand models as well as for macroeconomic inflation measures that typically do not incorporate frequently changing promotional prices.

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Paper provided by Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley in its series Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series with number qt7087m1p6.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2008
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Handle: RePEc:cdl:agrebk:qt7087m1p6

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Cited by:
  1. Ashley Langer & Nathan H. Miller, 2008. "Automobile Prices, Gasoline Prices, and Consumer Demand for Fuel Economy," EAG Discussions Papers 200811, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
  2. Nazneen Ferdous & Abdul Pinjari & Chandra Bhat & Ram Pendyala, 2010. "A comprehensive analysis of household transportation expenditures relative to other goods and services: an application to United States consumer expenditure data," Transportation, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 363-390, May.
  3. Justine Hastings & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2012. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice: Evidence from Commodity Price Shocks," NBER Working Papers 18248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Dora Gicheva & Justine Hastings & Sofia Villas-Boas, 2010. "Investigating Income Effects in Scanner Data: Do Gasoline Prices Affect Grocery Purchases?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 480-84, May.
  5. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K Kashyap, 2011. "Best Prices," NBER Working Papers 16680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Peter Berck & Ephraim Leibtag & Alex Solis & Sofia Villas-Boas, 2009. "Patterns of Pass-through of Commodity Price Shocks to Retail Prices," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1456-1461.
  7. Madowitz, M. & Novan, K., 2013. "Gasoline taxes and revenue volatility: An application to California," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 663-673.
  8. Boudhayan Sen & Jiwoong Shin & K. Sudhir, 2012. "Demand Externalities from Co-Location," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1850, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  9. Beatty, Timothy K.M. & Tuttle, Charlotte, 2012. "The Effect of Energy Price Shocks on Household Food Security," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124791, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  10. Rachel Griffith & Ephraim Leibtag & Andrew Leicester & Aviv Nevo, 2009. "Consumer Shopping Behavior: How Much Do Consumers Save?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 99-120, Spring.
  11. Erika Spissu & Abdul Pinjari & Ram Pendyala & Chandra Bhat, 2009. "A copula-based joint multinomial discrete–continuous model of vehicle type choice and miles of travel," Transportation, Springer, vol. 36(4), pages 403-422, July.
  12. Justine S. Hastings & Ebonya L. Washington, 2008. "The First of the Month Effect: Consumer Behavior and Store Responses," NBER Working Papers 14578, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Nicholas Li & Gee Hee Hong, 2013. "Market Structure and Cost Pass-Through in Retail," Working Papers tecipa-470, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  14. Gee Hee Hong & Nicholas Li, 2013. "Market Structure and Cost Pass-Through in Retail," Working Papers 13-5, Bank of Canada.

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