Consumption smoothing among working-class American families before social insurance
AbstractThis paper examines whether the saving decisions of a large sample of working-class American families around the turn of the twentieth century are consistent with consumption smoothing tendencies in the spirit of the permanent income hypothesis. We develop two econometric models to decompose reported annual incomes from micro-data into expected and unexpected components, then we estimate marginal propensities to save out of each component of income. The two methodologies deliver similar regression estimates and reveal empirical patterns consistent with those reported in other recent research based on quite different contemporary household data. Marginal propensities to save out of unexpected income shocks are large relative to propensities based on expected income movements, though the former lie much below one and the latter much above zero. While these data reject strict parameterizations of the permanent income hypothesis, we nonetheless conclude that families' saving decisions in the historical period look quite "modern."
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 1999-24.
Date of creation: 1999
Date of revision:
Other versions of this item:
- John A. James & Michael G. Palumbo & Mark Thomas, 2007. "Consumption smoothing among working-class American families before social insurance," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(4), pages 606-640, October.
- James, J.A. & Palumbo, M.G. & Thomas, M., 1998. "Consumption Smoothing Among Working-Class American Families Before Social Insurance," Papers 98-05, Houston - Department of Economics.
- D91 - Microeconomics - - Intertemporal Choice and Growth - - - Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
- N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-1999-11-28 (All new papers)
- NEP-DGE-1999-11-28 (Dynamic General Equilibrium)
- NEP-IAS-1999-11-28 (Insurance Economics)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Robert M. Townsend, 1995. "Consumption Insurance: An Evaluation of Risk-Bearing Systems in Low-Income Economies," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 83-102, Summer.
- Angus Deaton, 1989.
"Saving and Liquidity Constraints,"
NBER Working Papers
3196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Paxson, Christina H, 1992. "Using Weather Variability to Estimate the Response of Savings to Transitory Income in Thailand," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 15-33, March.
- R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1994.
"The Importance of Precautionary Motives in Explaining Individual and Aggregate Saving,"
NBER Working Papers
4516, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Hubbard, R. Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1994. "The importance of precautionary motives in explaining individual and aggregate saving," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-125, June.
- Olney, Martha L., 1998. "When Your Word Is Not Enough: Race, Collateral, and Household Credit," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 408-431, June.
- Palumbo, M.G., 1998. "Estimating the Effects of Earnings Uncertainty on Families's Saving and Insurance Decisions," Papers 98-07, Houston - Department of Economics.
- Luigi Pistaferri, 1998.
"Superior Information, Income Shocks and the Permanent Income Hypothesis,"
CSEF Working Papers
07, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
- Luigi Pistaferri, 2001. "Superior Information, Income Shocks, And The Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 465-476, August.
- Carroll, Christopher D, 1997.
"Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55, February.
- Christopher D Carroll, 1990. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," Economics Working Paper Archive 371, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics, revised Aug 1996.
- Christopher D. Carroll, 1996. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 5788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Keyssar,Alexander, 1986. "Out of Work," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521297677, November.
- Kantor, Shawn Everett & Fishback, Price V, 1996. "Precautionary Saving, Insurance, and the Origins of Workers' Compensation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 419-42, April.
- James, John A, 1993. "Changes in Economic Instability in 19th-Century America," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 710-31, September.
- Alessie, Rob & Lusardi, Annamaria, 1997. "Saving and income smoothing: Evidence from panel data," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(7), pages 1251-1279, July.
- Carter, Susan B. & Sutch, Richard, 1996. "Myth of the Industrial Scrap Heap: A Revisionist View of Turn-of-the-Century American Retirement," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 5-38, March.
- Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
- Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Kris Vajs) The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Kris Vajs to update the entry or send us the correct address.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.