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The elasticity of intertemporal substitution: new evidence from 401(k) participation

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  • Gary V. Engelhardt
  • Anil Kumar

Abstract

A key parameter in economics is the elasticity of intertemporal substitution (EIS), which measures the extent to which consumers shift total expenditures across time in response to changes in the effective rate of return. In contrast to the previous literature, which primarily has relied on Euler equation methods and generated a wide range of estimates, we show how a life-cycle-consistent econometric specification of employee 401(k) participation along with plausibly exogenous variation in rates of return due to employer matching contributions can be used to generate new estimates of the EIS. Because firms often cap the generosity of the match, employer matching generates nonlinearities in household budget sets. We draw on non-linear budget-set estimation methods rooted in the public economics literature, and using detailed administrative contribution, earnings, and pension-plan data for a sample of 401(k)-eligible households from the Health and Retirement Study, we estimate the EIS to be 0.74 in our richest specification, with a 95% confidence interval that ranges from 0.37 to 1.21.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its series Working Papers with number 0812.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:feddwp:0812

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Keywords: Elasticity (Economic) ; Consumer behavior ; Econometric models;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Selin, Håkan, 2009. "Marginal tax rates and tax-favoured pension savings of the self-employed Evidence from Sweden," Working Paper Series 2009:6, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  2. Sorek, Gilad, 2011. "Patents and quality growth in OLG economy," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 33(4), pages 690-699.
  3. Giovannetti, Bruno C., 2013. "Asset pricing under quantile utility maximization," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 169-179.
  4. Tatiana Kirsanova & Jack Rogers, 2013. "Fixed versus Variable Rate Debt Contracts and Optimal Monetary Policy," Discussion Papers 1306, Exeter University, Department of Economics.
  5. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Kumar, Anil, 2009. "The elasticity of intertemporal substitution: New evidence from 401(k) participation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 103(1), pages 15-17, April.
  6. Bruno Cara Giovannetti, 2012. "Asset Pricing under Quantile Utility Maximization," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2012_16, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP).
  7. Giuseppe Ciccarone & Enrico Marchetti, 2011. "Macroeconomic effects of loss aversion in a signal extraction model," Working Papers 148, University of Rome La Sapienza, Department of Public Economics.
  8. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 2010. "Consumption and Saving: Models of Intertemporal Allocation and Their Implications for Public Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(3), pages 693-751, September.
  9. Paolo Lucchino & Dr Justin van de Ven, 2013. "Empirical Analysis of Household Savings Decisions in Context of Uncertainty: A cross-sectional approach," NIESR Discussion Papers 11721, National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
  10. Ciccarone, Giuseppe & Marchetti, Enrico, 2013. "Rational expectations and loss aversion: Potential output and welfare implications," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 24-36.
  11. Julien Hugonnier & Florian Pelgrin & Pascal St-Amour, 2010. "A structural analysis of the health expenditures and portfolio choices of retired agents," Swiss Finance Institute Research Paper Series 10-29, Swiss Finance Institute.
  12. Ravi Bansal & Dana Kiku & Amir Yaron, 2009. "An Empirical Evaluation of the Long-Run Risks Model for Asset Prices," NBER Working Papers 15504, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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