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Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey

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  • Orazio P. Attanasio
  • Guglielmo Weber

Abstract

In this paper we show that some of the predictions of models of consumer intertemporal optimization are not inconsistent with the patterns of non-durable expenditure observed in US household-level data. Our results and our approach are new in several respects. First, we use the only US micro data set which has direct and complete information on household consumption. The microeconomic data sets used in most of the consumption literature so far contained either very limited information on consumption (like the PSID) or none at all, in which case consumption had to be obtained indirectly from income and changes in assets. Second, we propose a flexible and novel specification of preferences which is easily estimable and allows a general treatment jof multiple commodities. We show that aggregation over commodities can be important, both theoretically and in practice. Third, we present empirical results that show that it is possible to find a reasonably simple specification of preferences, which controls for the effects of changes in demographics and labor supply behavior over the life cycle and which is not rejected by the available data. On our preferred specification, we obtain sharp estimates of key behavioral parameters (including the elasticity of intertemporal substitution) and no rejections of theoretical restrictions. Our results contrast sharply with most of the previous evidence, which has typically been interpreted as rejection of the theory. We show that previous rejections can be explained by the simplifying assumptions made to derive empirically tractable equations. We also show that results obtained using food consumption or aggregate data can be extremely misleading.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4795.

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Date of creation: Jul 1994
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Publication status: published as Journal of Political Economy, 1992.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4795

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  1. Campbell, John Y & Mankiw, N Gregory, 1990. "Permanent Income, Current Income, and Consumption," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(3), pages 265-79, July.
  2. Browning, Martin & Deaton, Angus & Irish, Margaret, 1985. "A Profitable Approach to Labor Supply and Commodity Demands over the Life-Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 53(3), pages 503-43, May.
  3. Mace, Barbara J, 1991. "Full Insurance in the Presence of Aggregate Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 928-56, October.
  4. B. Douglas Bernheim & John B. Shoven, 1991. "National Saving and Economic Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern91-2.
  5. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-26, June.
  6. Attanasio, O.P. & Browning, M.J., 1993. "Consumption over the life cycle and over the business cycle," Discussion Paper, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research 1993-14, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
  7. Orazio P. Attanasio, 1998. "Cohort Analysis of Saving Behavior by U.S. Households," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(3), pages 575-609.
  8. Orazio Attanasio & Steven J. Davis, 1994. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," NBER Working Papers 4771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Newey, Whitney K & West, Kenneth D, 1987. "A Simple, Positive Semi-definite, Heteroskedasticity and Autocorrelation Consistent Covariance Matrix," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 703-08, May.
  10. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1981. "The Adjustment of Consumption to Changing Expectations about Future Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 974-1009, October.
  11. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate and Aggregation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 631-49, July.
  12. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1982. "Generalized Instrumental Variables Estimation of Nonlinear Rational Expectations Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1269-86, September.
  13. Moffitt, Robert, 1993. "Identification and estimation of dynamic models with a time series of repeated cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 59(1-2), pages 99-123, September.
  14. Orazio P. Attanasio & Martin Browning, 1994. "Testing the life cycle model consumption: what can we learn from micro and macro data?," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, Fundación SEPI, vol. 18(3), pages 433-463, September.
  15. Keane, Michael P & Runkle, David E, 1992. "On the Estimation of Panel-Data Models with Serial Correlation When Instruments Are Not Strictly Exogenous," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 10(1), pages 1-9, January.
  16. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Seasonal Fluctuations and the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Model of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(6), pages 1258-79, December.
  17. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-76, October.
  18. Hall, Robert E & Mishkin, Frederic S, 1982. "The Sensitivity of Consumption to Transitory Income: Estimates from Panel Data on Households," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 461-81, March.
  19. Stephen Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research 24-85, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  20. Christopher D. Carroll & Lawrence H. Summers, 1991. "Consumption Growth Parallels Income Growth: Some New Evidence," NBER Chapters, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 305-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Robert E. Hall, 1981. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," NBER Working Papers 0720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Blundell, Richard & Pashardes, Panos & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "What Do We Learn About Consumer Demand Patterns from Micro Data?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 570-97, June.
  23. Runkle, David E., 1991. "Liquidity constraints and the permanent-income hypothesis : Evidence from panel data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 73-98, February.
  24. Fumio Hayashi, 1985. "Tests for Liquidity Constraints: A Critical Survey," NBER Working Papers 1720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  25. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics, Elsevier, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
  26. Orazio Attanasio, 1993. "A cohort analysis of saving behaviour by US households," IFS Working Papers, Institute for Fiscal Studies W93/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  27. repec:fth:harver:1466 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. Blundell, R. & Browning, M. & Meghir, C., 1989. "A Microeconometric Model Of Intertemporal Substitution And Consumer Demand," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS), University of Warwick, Department of Economics 324, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  29. Hayashi, Fumio & Sims, Christopher A, 1983. "Nearly Efficient Estimation of Time Series Models with Predetermined, but Not Exogenous, Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 51(3), pages 783-98, May.
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