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Risky Income, Life Cycle Consumption, and Precautionary Savings

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  • Jonathan S. Skinner

Abstract

This paper argues that precautionary savings against uncertain income comprise a large fraction of aggregate savings. A closed-form approximation for life cycle consumption subject to uncertain interest rates and earnings is derived by taking a second-order Taylor-Series approximation of the Euler equations. Using empirical measures of income uncertainty, I find that precautionary savings comprises up to 56 percent of aggregate life cycle savings. The derived expression for n-period optimal consumption is easily implemented for econometric estimation, and accords well with the exact numerical solution. Empirical comparisons of savings patterns among occupational groups using the Consumer Expenditure Survey contradict the predictions of the life cycle model. Riskier occupations, such as the self-employed and salespersons, save less than other occupations, although this finding may in part reflect unobservable differences in risk aversion among occupations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2336.

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Date of creation: Aug 1987
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Publication status: published as Journal of Monetary Economics, September 1988, vol 22, pp. 237-255.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2336

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  4. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
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  8. Kimball, Miles S & Mankiw, N Gregory, 1989. "Precautionary Saving and the Timing of Taxes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 863-79, August.
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  10. Miller, Bruce L, 1974. "Optimal Consumption with a Stochastic Income Stream," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(2), pages 253-66, March.
  11. Sandmo, Agnar, 1970. "The Effect of Uncertainty on Saving Decisions," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(3), pages 353-60, July.
  12. Epstein, L, 1975. "A Disaggregate Analysis of Consumer Choice under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(5-6), pages 877-92, Sept.-Nov.
  13. Grossman, Sanford J & Shiller, Robert J, 1981. "The Determinants of the Variability of Stock Market Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 222-27, May.
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  15. R. Glenn Hubbard & Kenneth L. Judd, 1985. "Social Security and Individual Welfare: Precautionary Saving, LiquidityConstraints, and the Payroll Tax," NBER Working Papers 1736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. Skinner, Jonathan, 1985. "Variable Lifespan and the Intertemporal Elasticity of Consumption," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(4), pages 616-23, November.
  20. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages S65-97, October.
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  22. Friend, Irwin & Blume, Marshall E, 1975. "The Demand for Risky Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 900-922, December.
  23. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1983. "Stochastic Consumption, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Asset Returns," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 249-65, April.
  24. Jeremy I. Bulow & Lawrence H. Summers, 1982. "The Taxation of Risky Assets," NBER Working Papers 0897, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-85, December.
  26. Hakansson, Nils H, 1970. "Optimal Investment and Consumption Strategies Under Risk for a Class of Utility Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(5), pages 587-607, September.
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