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Consumption Insurance or Consumption Mobility?

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Abstract

The theory of full consumption insurance posits that households are insulated from all idiosyncratic shocks so that the ratio of the marginal utilities of consumption of any two households is constant over time. Consumption insurance therefore implies absence of consumption mobility between any two time periods. This implication requires knowledge of the evolution of the entire consumption distribution, not just its mean as in standard tests of complete markets. We test this unexplored prediction of the theory using a panel drawn from the Bank of Italy Survey of Household Income and Wealth. We design an appropriate non-parametric test and find substantial mobility of consumption even controlling for possible preference shifts and measurement error in consumption. The findings strongly reject the theory of full consumption insurance.

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Paper provided by Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy in its series CSEF Working Papers with number 19.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 1999
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Publication status: Published in Journal of the European Economic Association, 2006, vol. 4, pages 75-115
Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:19

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Keywords: Consumption insurance; mobility;

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  1. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-67, June.
  2. Attanasio, Orazio & Davis, Steven J, 1996. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1227-62, December.
  3. Townsend, R.M., 1991. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 91-3, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  4. Shorrocks, A F, 1978. "The Measurement of Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(5), pages 1013-24, September.
  5. Abhijit Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1989. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Discussion Papers 877, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  6. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-76, October.
  7. Andrea Brandolini, 1999. "The Distribution of Personal Income in Post-War Italy: Source Description, Data Quality, and the Time Pattern of Income Inequality," Temi di discussione (Economic working papers) 350, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  8. Hayashi, Fumio & Altonji, Joseph & Kotlikoff, Laurence, 1996. "Risk-Sharing between and within Families," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 261-94, March.
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Cited by:
  1. Koeniger, Winfried, 2001. "Labor and Financial Market Interactions: The Case of Labor Income Risk and Car Insurance in the UK 1969-95," IZA Discussion Papers 240, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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