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On the Welfare Cost of Consumption Fluctuations in the Presence of Memorable Goods

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  • Rong Hai
  • Dirk Krueger
  • Andrew Postlewaite

Abstract

We propose a new classification of consumption goods into nondurable goods, durable goods and a new class which we call "memorable" goods. A good is memorable if a consumer can draw current utility from its past consumption experience through memory. We propose a novel consumption-savings model in which a consumer has a well-defined preference ordering over both nondurable goods and memorable goods. Memorable goods consumption differs from nondurable goods consumption in that current memorable goods consumption may also impact future utility through the accumulation process of the stock of memory. In our model, households optimally choose a lumpy profile of memorable goods consumption even in a frictionless world. Using Consumer Expenditure Survey data, we then document levels and volatilities of different groups of consumption goods expenditures, as well as their expenditure patterns, and show that the expenditure patterns on memorable goods indeed differ significantly from those on nondurable and durable goods. Finally, we empirically evaluate our model's predictions with respect to the welfare cost of consumption fluctuations and conduct an excess-sensitivity test of the consumption response to predictable income changes. We find that (i) the welfare cost of household-level consumption fluctuations may be overstated by 1.7 percentage points (11.9% points as opposed to 13.6% points of permanent consumption) if memorable goods are not appropriately accounted for; (ii) the finding of excess sensitivity of consumption documented in important papers of the literature might be entirely due to the presence of memorable goods.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19386.

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Date of creation: Aug 2013
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19386

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References

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  1. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
  2. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1995. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olga Gorbachev, 2011. "Did Household Consumption Become More Volatile?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 2248-70, August.
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  10. Benjamin Malin & Dirk Krueger & Felix Kubler, 2007. "Computing Stochastic Dynamic Economic Models with a Large Number of State Variables: A Description and Application of a Smolyak-Collocation Method," NBER Working Papers 13517, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  18. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley, 2000. "Luxuries Are Easier to Postpone: A Proof," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 1022-1026, October.
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  22. 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.
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  1. Memorable goods
    by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2013-10-15 14:45:00
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Cited by:
  1. Gabriela Prelipcean & Mircea Boscoianu, 2014. "Stochastic Dynamic Model on the Consumption – Saving Decision for Adjusting Products and Services Supply According with Consumers` Attainability," The AMFITEATRU ECONOMIC journal, Academy of Economic Studies - Bucharest, Romania, vol. 16(35), pages 201, February.

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