IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Consumption Inequality


  • Orazio P. Attanasio
  • Luigi Pistaferri


In this essay, we discuss the importance of consumption inequality in the debate concerning the measurement of disparities in economic well-being. We summarize the advantages and disadvantages of using consumption as opposed to income for measuring trends in economic well-being. We critically evaluate the available evidence on these trends, and in particular discuss how the literature has evolved in its assessment of whether consumption inequality has grown as much as or less than income inequality. We provide some novel evidence on three relatively unexplored themes: inequality in different spending components, inequality in leisure time, and intergenerational consumption mobility.

Suggested Citation

  • Orazio P. Attanasio & Luigi Pistaferri, 2016. "Consumption Inequality," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 3-28, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:30:y:2016:i:2:p:3-28
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.30.2.3

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. On the Distribution of Wealth
      by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2018-04-16 11:56:16


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Dustmann, Christian & Fitzenberger, Bernd & Zimmermann, Markus, 2018. "Housing Expenditures and Income Inequality," IZA Discussion Papers 11953, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Dalton, Michael & LaFave, Daniel, 2017. "Mitigating the consequences of a health condition: The role of intra- and interhousehold assistance," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 38-52.
    3. Haan, Peter & Kemptner, Daniel & Lüthen, Holger, 2017. "The Rising Longevity Gap by Lifetime Earnings: Distributional Implications for the Pension System," IZA Discussion Papers 11121, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis & Yu Zheng, 2017. "Why Is Food Consumption Inequality Underestimated? A Story of Vices and Children," Working Papers 969, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    5. Akerman, Anders, 2018. "The Relative Skill Demand of Superstar Firms and Aggregate Implications," Research Papers in Economics 2018:2, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    6. Brindusa Anghel & Henrique Basso & Olympia Bover & José María Casado & Laura Hospido & Mario Izquierdo & Ivan A. Kataryniuk & Aitor Lacuesta & José Manuel Montero & Elena Vozmediano, 2018. "Income, consumption and wealth inequality in Spain," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 351-387, November.
    7. Ija Trapeznikova, 2019. "Measuring income inequality," IZA World of Labor, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), pages 462-462, July.
    8. Metzger, Martina & Young, Brigitte, 2020. "No gender please, we're central bankers: Distributional impacts of quantitative easing," IPE Working Papers 136/2020, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
    9. Francois Gerard & Joana Naritomi, 2019. "Job displacement insurance and (the lack of) consumption-smoothing," CESifo Working Paper Series 7625, CESifo Group Munich.
    10. Francois Gerard & Joana Naritomi, 2019. "Job displacement insurance and (the lack of) consumption-smoothing," CESifo Working Paper Series 7625, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Philippe Askenazy, 2017. "Finance et néolibéralisme," Revue d'économie financière, Association d'économie financière, vol. 0(4), pages 45-58.
    12. Mark Setterfield, 2020. "Managing the discontent of the losers," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 78(1), pages 77-97, January.
    13. Zhao, Da & Wu, Tianhao & He, Qiwei, 2017. "Consumption inequality and its evolution in urban China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 208-228.
    14. Syed Hasan & Nazmun Ratna & Shamim Shakur, 2019. "Exchange rate, remittances and expenditure of foreign-bornhouseholds: evidence from Australia," Discussion Papers 1901, School of Economics and Finance, Massey University, New Zealand.
    15. Ligon, Ethan, 2020. "Estimating Household Welfare from Disaggregate Expenditures," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt3ts0g5tn, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    16. E. Wesley F. Peterson, 2017. "Is Economic Inequality Really a Problem? A Review of the Arguments," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(4), pages 1-25, December.
    17. Ch.-M. CHEVALIER, 2018. "Consumption inequality in France between 1995 and 2011," Documents de Travail de l'Insee - INSEE Working Papers g2018-07, Institut National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:30:y:2016:i:2:p:3-28. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael P. Albert). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.