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Life-Cycle Consumption: Can Single Agent Models Get it Right?

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  • Bick, Alexander
  • Choi, Sekyu
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    Abstract

    In the quantitative macro literature, single agent models are heavily used to explain "per-adult equivalent" household data. In this paper, we study differences between consumption predictions from a single agent model and "adult equivalent" consumption predictions from a model where household size evolves deterministically over the life-cycle and affects individual preferences for consumption. Using a theoretical model we prove that, under mild conditions, these predictions are different. In particular, the single household model cannot explain patterns in life-cycle consumption profiles (the so called 'humps'), nor cross sectional inequality in consumption originating from the second model, even after controlling for household size using equivalence scales. Through a quantitative exercise, we then document that differences in predictions can be substantial: total (per-adult equivalent) consumption over the life-cycle can be up to 5% different, depending on the specific parameterization. We find a similar number for total cross sectional inequality.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 29017.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:29017

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    Keywords: Consumption; Life-Cycle Models; Households;

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    1. Julie A. NELSON, 1993. "Independent of a Base Equivalence Scales Estimation Using United States Micro-Level Data," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 29, pages 43-63.
    2. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris & Yaron, Amir, 2002. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," Seminar Papers 702, Stockholm University, Institute for International Economic Studies.
    3. Karen Kopecky & Richard Suen, 2010. "Finite State Markov-chain Approximations to Highly Persistent Processes," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(3), pages 701-714, July.
    4. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    5. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "The Macroeconomic Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 681-722, 08.
    6. Fatih Guvenen & Anthony Smith, 2010. "Inferring labor income risk from economic choices: an indirect inference approach," Staff Report 450, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    7. Gouveia, Miguel & Strauss, Robert P., 1994. "Effective Federal Individual Tax Functions: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 317-39, June.
    8. Luis Cubeddu & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2003. "Families As Shocks," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 671-682, 04/05.
    9. Greg Kaplan & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "How Much Consumption Insurance Beyond Self-Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 15553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Orazio Attanasio & James Banks & Costas Meghir & Guglielmo Weber, 1995. "Humps and bumps in lifetime consumption," IFS Working Papers W95/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    11. Lazear, Edward P & Michael, Robert T, 1980. "Family Size and the Distribution of Real Per Capita Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 91-107, March.
    12. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri & Luigi Pistaferri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Cross Sectional Facts for Macroeconomists," NBER Working Papers 15554, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
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