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Has Consumption Inequality Mirrored Income Inequality?

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  • Mark A. Aguiar
  • Mark Bils

Abstract

We revisit to what extent the increase in income inequality over the last 30 years has been mirrored by consumption inequality. We do so by constructing two alternative measures of consumption expenditure, using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE). We first use reports of active savings and after tax income to construct the measure of consumption implied by the budget constraint. We find that the consumption inequality implied by savings behavior largely tracks income inequality between 1980 and 2007. Second, we use a demand system to correct for systematic measurement error in the CE's expenditure data. Specifically, we consider trends in the relative expenditure of high income and low income households for different goods with different income (total expenditure) elasticities. Our estimation exploits the difference in the growth rate of luxury consumption inequality versus necessity consumption inequality. This "double-differencing,'' which we implement in a a regression framework, corrects for mis-measurement that can systematically vary over time by good and income group. This second exercise indicates that consumption inequality has closely tracked income inequality over the period 1980-2007. Both of our measures show a significantly greater increase in consumption inequality than what is obtained from the CE's total household expenditure data directly.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16807.

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Date of creation: Feb 2011
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16807

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  1. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura & Amir Yaron, 2011. "Sources of Lifetime Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 2923-54, December.
  2. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio & Pistaferri, Luigi & Violante, Giovanni L, 2009. "Cross Sectional Facts for Macroeconomists," CEPR Discussion Papers 7582, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Fatih Guvenen, 2005. "Learning Your Earning: Are Labor Income Shocks Really Very Persistent?," Macroeconomics 0507004, EconWPA.
  4. Bruce Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2010. "Five Decades of Consumption and Income Proverty," Working Papers 2010-003, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
  5. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, 1997. "Consumption and risk sharing over the life cycle," GSIA Working Papers 228, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  6. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2005. "Two Views of Inequality Over the Life Cycle," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 765-775, 04/05.
  7. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States, 1967-2006," NBER Working Papers 15483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  10. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1997. "Consumption, inequality and income uncertainty," IFS Working Papers W97/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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  1. Reagan and the role of the past in shaping the future
    by Jonas Feit in Conscience Warrior on 2013-12-14 18:10:00
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Cited by:
  1. Carroll, Christopher D. & Parker, Jonathan A. & Souleles, Nicholas S., 2014. "The benefits of panel data in consumer expenditure surveys," CFS Working Paper Series 465, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  2. Christopher D. Carroll, 2012. "Representing Consumption and Saving Without A Representative Consumer," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Lorenz Kueng & John Silvia, 2012. "Innocent Bystanders? Monetary Policy and Inequality in the U.S," NBER Working Papers 18170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Laura Blow & Valérie Lechene & Peter Levell, 2014. "Using the CE to Model Household Demand," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jonathan A. Parker & Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2010. "The Increase in Income Cyclicality of High-Income Households and Its Relation to the Rise in Top Income Shares," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 41(2 (Fall)), pages 1-70.
  6. Broer, Tobias, 2011. "The wrong shape of insurance? What cross-sectional distributions tell us about models of consumption-smoothing," CEPR Discussion Papers 8701, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Federico Ravenna & Nicolas Vincent, 2014. "Inequality and Debt in a Model with Heterogeneous Agents," Cahiers de recherche 1408, CIRPEE.
  8. Amy Beech & Rosetta Dollman & Richard Finlay & Gianni La Cava, 2014. "The Distribution of Household Spending in Australia," RBA Bulletin, Reserve Bank of Australia, pages 13-22, March.
  9. Mike Brewer & Ben Etheridge & Cormac O'Dea, . "Why are households that report the lowest incomes so well-off?," Economics Discussion Papers 736, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  10. Orazio Attanasio & Erik Hurst & Luigi Pistaferri, 2014. "The Evolution of Income, Consumption, and Leisure Inequality in the US, 1980-2010," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Leonardo Martinez & Juan Carlos Hatchondo & Juan M. Sanchez, 2012. "Mortgage Defaults," IMF Working Papers 12/26, International Monetary Fund.
  12. Wong, Arlene, 2014. "Population Aging and the Aggregate Effects of Monetary Policy," MPRA Paper 57096, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Lisandra Flach & Eckhard Janeba, 2013. "Income Inequality and Export Prices across Countries," CESifo Working Paper Series 4298, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Steven N. Kaplan & Joshua Rauh, 2013. "It's the Market: The Broad-Based Rise in the Return to Top Talent," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 35-56, Summer.
  15. Christopher D. Carroll & Thomas F. Crossley & John Sabelhaus, 2014. "Introduction to "Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures"," NBER Chapters, in: Improving the Measurement of Consumer Expenditures National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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