Inequality and Household Finance during the Consumer Age
AbstractOne might expect that rising US income inequality would reduce demand growth and create a drag on the economy because higher-income groups spend a smaller share of income. But during a quarter century of rising inequality, US growth and employment were reasonably strong, by historical standards, until the Great Recession. This paper analyzes this paradox by disaggregating household spending, income, saving, and debt between the bottom 95 percent and top 5 percent of the income distribution. We find that the top 5 percent did indeed spend a smaller share of income, but demand drag did not occur because the spending share of the bottom 95 percent rose, accompanied by a historic increase in borrowing. The unsustainable rise in household leverage concentrated in the bottom 95 percent ultimately spawned the Great Recession. The demand drag of rising inequality could be one explanation for the stagnant recovery in the recession's aftermath.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in its series INET Research Notes with number 23.
Date of creation: 01 Feb 2013
Date of revision:
Other versions of this item:
- Barry Z. Cynamon & Steven M. Fazzari, 2013. "Inequality and Household Finance during the Consumer Age," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_752, Levy Economics Institute, The.
- D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
- D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
- E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomics: Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2013-07-20 (All new papers)
- NEP-HIS-2013-07-20 (Business, Economic & Financial History)
- NEP-LTV-2013-07-20 (Unemployment, Inequality & Poverty)
- NEP-PKE-2013-07-20 (Post Keynesian Economics)
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