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Transfers and Development: Easy Come, Easy Go?

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  • Luc Christiaensen
  • Lei Pan

Abstract

Contrary to the popular notion that money that is easily earned, is also easily spent, economic theory holds that income is fungible. Drawing on the concept of mental accounting, this study theoretically explores when such a link between spending behaviour and the effort dispensed in obtaining income is plausible. Empirically, it is found that the marginal propensity to consume from unearned income is about three times larger than that from earned income, based on household panel data from rural China, with the difference more pronounced when unearned income is transitory and smaller than earned income. The policy implications are real.

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File URL: http://www.wider.unu.edu/stc/repec/pdfs/wp2010/wp2010-125.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER) in its series Working Paper Series with number wp2010-125.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:unu:wpaper:wp2010-125

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Keywords: transfers; saving; mental accounting; permanent income hypothesis; China;

References

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  1. List, John A., 2009. "An introduction to field experiments in economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(3), pages 439-442, June.
  2. Hanan G. Jacoby, 2002. "Is There an Intrahousehold "Flypaper Effect"? Evidence From a School Feeding Programme," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(476), pages 196-221, January.
  3. Peter Kooreman, 2000. "The Labeling Effect of a Child Benefit System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 571-583, June.
  4. Baltagi, Badi H. & Wu, Ping X., 1999. "Unequally Spaced Panel Data Regressions With Ar(1) Disturbances," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(06), pages 814-823, December.
  5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian, 2007. "Mental Accounting in Portfolio Choice: Evidence from a Flypaper Effect," NBER Working Papers 13656, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Nicholas S. Souleles & Jonathan A. Parker & David S. Johnson, 2006. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1589-1610, December.
  7. Davies, Simon & Easaw, Joshy & Ghoshray, Atanu, 2009. "Mental accounting and remittances: A study of rural Malawian households," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 321-334, June.
  8. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates-Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 986-1019, December.
  9. Mahnaz Islam & John Hoddinott, 2009. "Evidence of Intrahousehold Flypaper Effects from a Nutrition Intervention in Rural Guatemala," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(2), pages 215-238, 01.
  10. Katherine L. Milkman & John L. Beshears, 2007. "Mental Accounting and Small Windfalls: Evidence from an Online Grocer," Harvard Business School Working Papers 08-024, Harvard Business School, revised Sep 2008.
  11. Arkes, Hal R. & Joyner, Cynthia A. & Pezzo, Mark V. & Nash, Jane Gradwohl & Siegel-Jacobs, Karen & Stone, Eric, 1994. "The Psychology of Windfall Gains," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 331-347, September.
  12. Wagstaff, Adam, 2011. "Fungibility and the impact of development assistance: Evidence from Vietnam's health sector," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 62-73, January.
  13. Luis Rubalcava & Graciela Teruel & Duncan Thomas, 2009. "Investments, Time Preferences, and Public Transfers Paid to Women," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(3), pages 507-538, 04.
  14. Yu Zhu & Zhongmin Wu & Meiyan Wang & Yang Du & Fang Cai, 2009. "Do Migrants Really Save More? Understanding the Impact of Remittances on Savings in Rural China," Studies in Economics 0923, Department of Economics, University of Kent.
  15. Hsieh, Chang-Tai & Shimizutani, Satoshi & Hori, Masahiro, 2010. "Did Japan's shopping coupon program increase spending?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(7-8), pages 523-529, August.
  16. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Christiaensen , Luc & Pan, Lei, 2012. "On the fungibility of spending and earnings -- evidence from rural China and Tanzania," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6298, The World Bank.
  2. Beyene, Berhe Mekonnen, 2012. "The Link between International Remittances and Private Interhousehold Transfers," Memorandum 14/2012, Oslo University, Department of Economics.

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