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The Response of Household Saving to the Large Shock of German Reunification

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  • Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln

Abstract

German reunification was a large, unexpected shock for East Germans, with different economic consequences for different birth cohorts. Exploiting German reunification as a natural experiment, I analyze the validity of the life-cycle consumption model. In the empirical part, I derive three stylized features concerning the saving behavior of East vs. West Germans in the 1990s: (i) East Germans have higher saving rates than West Germans after reunification, (ii) this East-West gap in saving rates is increasing in the age of the birth cohort, and (iii) for every cohort, this gap is declining over time. The theoretical part investigates whether a comprehensive life cycle model can predict these three features. I find strong evidence in favor of rational, forward looking saving behavior. The precautionary saving motive is essential in replicating the features from the data.

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File URL: http://crr.bc.edu/working-papers/the-response-of-household-saving-to-the-large-shock-of-german-reunification/
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College with number wp2008-21.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2008
Date of revision: Dec 2008
Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2008-21

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  1. Börsch-Supan, Axel H. & Reil-Held, Anette & Rodepeter, Ralf & Schnabel, Reinhold & Winter, Joachim, 2001. "The German Savings Puzzle," Munich Reprints in Economics 20236, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  2. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2002. "Do Liquidity Constraints And Interest Rates Matter For Consumer Behavior? Evidence From Credit Card Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 149-185, February.
  3. Hans-Werner Sinn, 2000. "Germany's Economic Unification. An Assessment after Ten Years," CESifo Working Paper Series 247, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Martin Browning & M. Dolores Collado, 2001. "The Response of Expenditures to Anticipated Income Changes: Panel Data Estimates," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 681-692, June.
  5. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
  6. Holger Bonin & Rob Euwals, 2002. "Participation Behavior of East German Women after German Unification," 10th International Conference on Panel Data, Berlin, July 5-6, 2002 D1-1, International Conferences on Panel Data.
  7. Nicholas S. Souleles & Jonathan A. Parker & David S. Johnson, 2006. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1589-1610, December.
  8. Biewen, Martin, 2000. "Income Inequality in Germany during the 1980s and 1990s," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 46(1), pages 1-19, March.
  9. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Carroll, Christopher D. & Weil, David N., 1994. "Saving and growth: a reinterpretation," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 133-192, June.
  11. Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 1993. "Consumer Response to the Timing of Income: Evidence from a Change in Tax Withholding," NBER Working Papers 4344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Sinn, Gerlinde & Sinn, Hans-Werner, 1992. "Kaltstart. Volkswirtschaftliche Aspekte der Deutschen Vereinigung," Monograph, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, edition 2, number urn:isbn:9783161459429, Octomber.
  13. Merz, Joachim & Faik, Jürgen, 1994. "Equivalence Scales Based on Revealed Preference Consumption Expenditure Microdata - The Case of West Germany," MPRA Paper 16297, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley, 2001. "The Life-Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
  15. Souleles, Nicholas S., 2002. "Consumer response to the Reagan tax cuts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 99-120, July.
  16. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  17. Wilke, Ralf A., 2004. "Semiparametric Estimation of Consumption Based Equivalence Scales: The Case of Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 04-53, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  18. Christopher D. Carroll & Andrew A. Samwick, 1995. "The Nature of Precautionary Wealth," NBER Working Papers 5193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. repec:att:wimass:9724 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Souleles, Nicholas S., 2000. "College tuition and household savings and consumption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 185-207, August.
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