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Individual Learning About Consumption

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  • Allen, Todd W.
  • Carroll, Christopher D.

Abstract

The standard approach to modelling consumption/saving problems is to assume that the decisionmaker is solving a dynamic stochastic optimization problem. However, under realistic descriptions of utility and uncertainty, the optimal consumption/saving decision is so difficult that only recently have economists have managed to find solutions, using numerical methods that require previously infeasible amounts of computation. Yet empirical evidence suggests that household behavior conforms fairly well with the prescriptions of the optimal solution, raising the question of how average households can solve problems that economists, until recently, could not. This paper examines whether consumers might be able to find a reasonably good 'rule-of-thumb' approximation to optimal behavior by trial-and-error methods, as Friedman (1953) proposed long ago. We find that such individual learning methods can reliably identify reasonably good rules of thumb only if the consumer is able to spend absurdly large amounts of time searching for a good rule.
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Suggested Citation

  • Allen, Todd W. & Carroll, Christopher D., 2001. "Individual Learning About Consumption," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 255-271, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:macdyn:v:5:y:2001:i:02:p:255-271_01
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Ann L. Owen & Elizabeth J. Jensen, 2008. "Social Learning and Course Choice," International Review of Economic Education, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 7(1), pages 9-35.
    2. Meissner, Thomas & Rostam-Afschar, Davud, 2017. "Learning Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 273-288.
    3. Howitt, Peter & Özak, Ömer, 2014. "Adaptive consumption behavior," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 37-61.
    4. Pascal Seppecher & Isabelle Salle & Dany Lang, 2016. "Is the Market Really a Good Teacher? Market Selection, Collective Adaptation and Financial Instability," GREDEG Working Papers 2016-15, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), University of Nice Sophia Antipolis.
    5. Ozak, Omer, 2014. "Optimal consumption under uncertainty, liquidity constraints, and bounded rationality," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 237-254.
    6. Salle, Isabelle & Seppecher, Pascal, 2016. "Social Learning About Consumption," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(07), pages 1795-1825, October.
    7. Alexander L. Brown & Zhikang Eric Chua & Colin F. Camerer, 2009. "Learning and Visceral Temptation in Dynamic Saving Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 197-231.
    8. Dawid, H. & Harting, P. & Neugart, M., 2014. "Economic convergence: Policy implications from a heterogeneous agent model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 54-80.
    9. Feigenbaum, James & Caliendo, Frank N. & Gahramanov, Emin, 2011. "Optimal irrational behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 77(3), pages 285-303, March.
    10. repec:eee:jeborg:v:150:y:2018:i:c:p:220-255 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Shapiro, Joel & Wu, Stephen, 2011. "Fatalism and savings," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(5), pages 645-651.
    12. Tokuoka, Kiichi, 2013. "Saving response to unemployment of a sibling," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 58-75.
    13. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, with and without Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 23-45, Summer.
    14. Kiichi Tokuoka, 2015. "Do Consumers Learn from Their Own Experiences?," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 66(4), pages 466-491, December.
    15. Fazzari, Steven & Ferri, Piero & Greenberg, Edward, 2008. "Cash flow, investment, and Keynes-Minsky cycles," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 555-572, March.
    16. Binswanger, Johannes, 2011. "Dynamic decision making with feasibility goals: A procedural-rationality approach," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(3), pages 219-228, May.
    17. Georges, Christophre & Wallace, John C., 2009. "Learning Dynamics And Nonlinear Misspecification In An Artificial Financial Market," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(05), pages 625-655, November.
    18. Emilio Fernandez-Corugedo, 2004. "Consumption Theory," Handbooks, Centre for Central Banking Studies, Bank of England, number 23, March.
    19. Pascal Seppecher & Isabelle Salle, 2015. "Deleveraging crises and deep recessions: a behavioural approach," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(34-35), pages 3771-3790, July.
    20. Chiarella, Carl & He, Xue-Zhong & Wei, Lijian, 2015. "Learning, information processing and order submission in limit order markets," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 245-268.
    21. Binswanger, Johannes, 2012. "Life cycle saving: Insights from the perspective of bounded rationality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 605-623.
    22. Tetsuo Yamamori & Kazuyuki IwataAuthor-Name: Akira Ogawa, 2014. "An Experimental Study of Money Illusion in Intertemporal Decision Making," Working Papers e85, Tokyo Center for Economic Research.
    23. Pascal Seppecher & Isabelle Salle, 2015. "Deleveraging crises and deep recessions: a behavioural approach," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(34-35), pages 3771-3790, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C6 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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