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Who Bears Aggregate Fluctuations and How?

  • Jonathan A. Parker
  • Annette Vissing-Jorgensen

The consumption of high-consumption households is more exposed to fluctuations in aggregate consumption and income than that of low-consumption households in the Consumer Expenditure (CEX) Survey. The exposure to aggregate consumption growth of households in the top 10 percent of the consumption distribution in the CEX is about five times that of households in the bottom 80 percent. Given real aggregate per capita consumption growth about 3 percentage points less than its historical mean during the past year, these figures predict that the ratio of consumption of the top 10 percent to the bottom 80 percent has fallen by about 15 percentage points (relative to trend). Using income data from Piketty and Saez (2003), we show that the income (especially the wage income) of rich households is more exposed to aggregate fluctuations, so their higher income exposure is a likely contributor to their higher consumption exposure. Finally, we find a striking change in the exposure of the incomes of high-income households: prior to the early 1980's, the incomes of high-income households were not more exposed to aggregate fluctuations. Thus, while high-income households currently bear an inordinately large share of aggregate fluctuations, this is a recent occurrence.

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

Volume (Year): 99 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 399-405

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:99:y:2009:i:2:p:399-405
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.99.2.399
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  1. N. Gregory Mankiw & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1990. "The Consumption of Stockholders and Non-Stockholders," NBER Working Papers 3402, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. Primiceri, Giorgio E. & van Rens, Thijs, 2007. "Heterogeneous Life-Cycle Profiles, Income Risk and Consumption Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 3239, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Jonathan A. Parker, 2001. "The Consumption Risk of the Stock Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(2), pages 279-348.
  5. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2004. "On the Welfare Consequences of the Increase in Inequality in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2003, Volume 18, pages 83-138 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Christopher J. Malloy & Tobias J. Moskowitz & Annette Vissing-Jørgensen, 2009. "Long-Run Stockholder Consumption Risk and Asset Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 64(6), pages 2427-2479, December.
  7. David M. Cutler & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "Macroeconomic Performance and the Disadvantaged," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 1-74.
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