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Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance

  • Richard Blundell
  • Luigi Pistaferri
  • Ian Preston

This paper examines the link between income and consumption inequality. We create panel data on consumption for the Panel Study of Income Dynamics using an imputation procedure based on food demand estimates from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. We document a disjuncture between income and consumption inequality over the 1980s and show that it can be explained by changes in the persistence of income shocks. We find some partial insurance of permanent shocks, especially for the college educated and those near retirement. We find full insurance of transitory shocks except among poor households. Taxes, transfers, and family labor supply play an important role in insuring permanent shocks. (JEL D12, D31, D91, E21)

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

Volume (Year): 98 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5 (December)
Pages: 1887-1921

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:98:y:2008:i:5:p:1887-1921
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.98.5.1887
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  1. Altonji, Joseph G. & Martins, Ana Paula & Siow, Aloysius, 2002. "Dynamic factor models of consumption, hours and income," Research in Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 3-59, June.
  2. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  3. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1995. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1121-57, December.
  4. 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.
  5. Joseph G. Altonji & Aloysius Siow, 1986. "Testing the Response of Consumption to Income Changes with (Noisy) PanelData," NBER Working Papers 2012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Attanasio, Orazio & Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 2000. "Consumption smoothing in island economies: Can public insurance reduce welfare?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(7), pages 1225-1258, June.
  7. Alan J. Auerbach & Daniel R. Feenberg, 2000. "The Significance of Federal Taxes as Automatic Stabilizers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 37-56, Summer.
  8. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-84, August.
  9. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Altonji, Joseph G & Segal, Lewis M, 1996. "Small-Sample Bias in GMM Estimation of Covariance Structures," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 14(3), pages 353-66, July.
  11. Fernando Alvarez & Urban J. Jermann, 2000. "Efficiency, Equilibrium, and Asset Pricing with Risk of Default," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(4), pages 775-798, July.
  12. Sumru Altug & Robert Miller, . "Household Choices in Equilibrium," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 87-8, Chicago - Population Research Center.
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