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Aggregate Consumption and Debt Accumulation: An Empirical Examination of US Household Behavior

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Author Info

  • Yun Kim

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

  • Mark Setterfield

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

  • Yuan Mei

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

Abstract

The outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008 witnessed a marked contraction in US consumption spending that had hitherto been boosted by historically high levels of household debt-financing. These events question the validity of conventional models of consumption based on the life-cycle hypothesis, with its benign view of debt as a neutral instrument of optimal intertemporal expenditure smoothing. This paper develops an alternative account of consumption spending based on the Keynesian relative income hypothesis, which claims that current income, its distribution, household borrowing, and household indebtedness all affect current consumption. The paper then provides an empirical investigation of US consumption spending since the 1960s. The results of this inquiry are not compatible with the life-cycle hypothesis, but are congruent with our alternative Keynesian theory of consumption based on the relative income hypothesis.

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File URL: http://internet2.trincoll.edu/repec/WorkingPapers2012/WP12-04.pdf
File Function: First version, 2012
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Trinity College, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1204.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tri:wpaper:1204

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Related research

Keywords: Consumption; household borrowing; household debt; life cycle hypothesis; relative income hypothesis;

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References

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  1. Johansen, Soren, 1988. "Statistical analysis of cointegration vectors," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 231-254.
  2. Kahneman, Daniel & Knetsch, Jack L & Thaler, Richard, 1986. "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 728-41, September.
  3. Case, Karl E. & Quigley, John M. & Shiller, Robert J., 2005. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus the Housing Market," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt28d3s92s, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
  4. David Bunting, 2001. "Keynes' Law and Its Critics," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 24(1), pages 149-163, October.
  5. Mark Setterfield & Ted Lovejoy, 2006. "Aspirations, bargaining power, and macroeconomic performance," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 29(1), pages 117-148, October.
  6. Gilberto Tadeu Lima & Mark Setterfield, 2008. "Inflation targeting and macroeconomic stability in a Post Keynesian economy," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 30(3), pages 435-461, April.
  7. Simon Mohun, 2006. "Distributive shares in the US economy, 1964--2001," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 30(3), pages 347-370, May.
  8. Thomas I. Palley, 2002. "Economic contradictions coming home to roost? Does the U.S. economy face a long-term aggregate demand generation problem?," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 25(1), pages 9-32, January.
  9. Edward Wolff & Ajit Zacharias, 2009. "Household wealth and the measurement of economic well-being in the United States," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 7(2), pages 83-115, June.
  10. Mark Setterfield, 2010. "Real Wages, Aggregate Demand, and the Macroeconomic Travails of the US Economy: Diagnosis and Prognosis," Working Papers 1005, Trinity College, Department of Economics.
  11. Johansen, Søren & Juselius, Katarina, 1992. "Testing structural hypotheses in a multivariate cointegration analysis of the PPP and the UIP for UK," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1-3), pages 211-244.
  12. Anthony B. Atkinson & Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2009. "Top Incomes in the Long Run of History," NBER Working Papers 15408, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2003. "Income Inequality In The United States, 1913-1998," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 1-39, February.
  14. Sydney C. Ludvigson, 2004. "Consumer Confidence and Consumer Spending," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(2), pages 29-50, Spring.
  15. David Dequech, 1999. "Expectations and Confidence under Uncertainty," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 21(3), pages 415-430, April.
  16. Dolado, Juan J & Jenkinson, Tim & Sosvilla-Rivero, Simon, 1990. " Cointegration and Unit Roots," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4(3), pages 249-73.
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