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Did Household Consumption Become More Volatile?

  • Olga Gorbachev

I show that after accounting for predictable variation arising from movements in real interest rates, preferences and income shocks, liquidity constraints and measurement errors, volatility of household consumption in the US increased by 25 percent between 1970 and 2004. The increase was lower than that of volatility of family income. Nonwhite and those with less than 13 years of education, for whom there was no differential increase in income volatility, experienced a significantly larger increase in volatility of household consumption. Substantial differences in wealth and access to credit markets point to the main reason for this divide. JEL: D12, D14, E21, J15

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
Issue (Month): 5 (August)
Pages: 2248-70

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:5:p:2248-70
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  1. Olga Gorbachev & Keshav Dogra, 2009. "Evolution of Consumption Volatility for the Liquidity Constrained Households over 1983 to 2004," ESE Discussion Papers 193, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  2. Stephen Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 24-85, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  3. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1995. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-02, McMaster University.
  4. Haider, S.J., 2000. "Earnings Instability and Earnings Inequality of Males in the United States: 1967-1991," Papers 00-15, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  5. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  6. Tullio Jappeli & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "The Consumption Response to Income Changes," Discussion Papers 08-052, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  7. Giorgio E. Primiceri & Thijs van Rens, 2006. "Heterogeneous life-cycle profiles, income risk and consumption inequality," Economics Working Papers 945, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Aug 2008.
  8. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  9. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, 1997. "Consumption and risk sharing over the life cycle," GSIA Working Papers 228, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  10. Peter Gottschalk, 1997. "Inequality, Income Growth, and Mobility: The Basic Facts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(2), pages 21-40, Spring.
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  12. Dew-Becker, Ian & Gordon, Robert J, 2008. "Controversies about the Rise in American Inequality: A Survey," CEPR Discussion Papers 6817, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. Sule Alan & Orazio Attanasio & Martin Browning, 2009. "Estimating Euler equations with noisy data: two exact GMM estimators," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(2), pages 309-324, 03.
  14. Carroll, Christopher D., 2009. "Precautionary saving and the marginal propensity to consume out of permanent income," CFS Working Paper Series 2009/16, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  15. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  16. Arellano, Manuel & Bover, Olympia, 1995. "Another look at the instrumental variable estimation of error-components models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 29-51, July.
  17. Meghir, Costas & Weber, Guglielmo, 1996. "Intertemporal Nonseparability or Borrowing Restrictions? A Disaggregate Analysis Using a U.S. Consumption Panel," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1151-81, September.
  18. Orazio Attanasio & Steven J. Davis, 1994. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," NBER Working Papers 4771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 1994. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," NBER Working Papers 4795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. Steven J. Davis & James A. Kahn, 2008. "Interpreting the Great Moderation: Changes in the Volatility of Economic Activity at the Macro and Micro Levels," NBER Working Papers 14048, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez, 2006. "How Progressive is the U.S. Federal Tax System? A Historical and International Perspective," NBER Working Papers 12404, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Joseph Gyourko & Joseph Tracy, 2006. "Using Home Maintenance and Repairs to Smooth Variable Earnings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 736-747, November.
  23. Nickell, Stephen J, 1981. "Biases in Dynamic Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(6), pages 1417-26, November.
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