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Earnings, Consumption and Life Cycle Choices

  • Meghir, Costas
  • Pistaferri, Luigi

We discuss recent developments in the literature that studies how the dynamics of earnings and wages affect consumption choices over the life cycle. We start by analyzing the theoretical impact of income changes on consumption--highlighting the role of persistence, information, size and insurability of changes in economic resources. We next examine the empirical contributions, distinguishing between papers that use only income data and those that use both income and consumption data. The latter do this for two purposes. First, one can make explicit assumptions about the structure of credit and insurance markets and identify the income process or the information set of the individuals. Second, one can assume that the income process or the amount of information that consumers have are known and test the implications of the theory. In general there is an identification issue that has only recently being addressed with better data or better "experiments". We conclude with a discussion of the literature that endogenizes people's earnings and therefore change the nature of risk faced by households.

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This chapter was published in:
  • O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), 2011. "Handbook of Labor Economics," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 4, number 5.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of Labor Economics with number 5-09.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:labchp:5-09
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/bookseriesdescription.cws_home/BS_HE/description

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    1. Luigi Guiso & Luigi Pistaferri & Fabiano Schivardi, 2005. "Insurance within the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(5), pages 1054-1087, October.
    2. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James & Navarro, Salvador, 2004. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Working Paper Series 2005:6, IFAU - Institute for Evaluation of Labour Market and Education Policy.
    3. Erich Battistin & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 2007. "Why is Consumption More Log Normal Than Income? Gibrat's Law Revisited," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 671, Boston College Department of Economics.
    4. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura & Amir Yaron, 2011. "Sources of Lifetime Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(7), pages 2923-54, December.
    5. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "An empirical investigation of labor income processes," IFS Working Papers W07/13, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    6. Geweke, John & Keane, Michael, 2000. "An empirical analysis of earnings dynamics among men in the PSID: 1968-1989," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 96(2), pages 293-356, June.
    7. Orazio Attanasio & Nicola Pavoni, 2007. "Risk Sharing in Private Information Models with Asset Accumulation: Explaining the Excess Smoothness of Consumption," NBER Working Papers 12994, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Klara Sabirianova Peter & Dmitriy Stolyarov, 2009. "Inequality and Volatility Moderation in Russia: Evidence from Micro-Level Panel Data on Consumption and Income," NBER Working Papers 15080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "Learning Your Earning: Are Labor Income Shocks Really Very Persistent?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 687-712, June.
    10. Lisa A. Cameron & Christopher Worswick, 2003. "The Labor Market as a Smoothing Device: Labor Supply Responses to Crop Loss," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(2), pages 327-341, 05.
    11. Orazio Attanasio & Hamish Low & Virginia Sanchez-Marcos, 2008. "Explaining Changes in Female Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(4), pages 1517-52, September.
    12. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "Precautionary Saving and the Marginal Propensity to Consume out of Permanent Income," NBER Working Papers 8233, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. 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.
    14. Dehejia, Rajeev & DeLeire, Thomas & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2007. "Insuring consumption and happiness through religious organizations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 259-279, February.
    15. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
    16. Katja Kaufmann & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "Disentangling Insurance and Information in Intertemporal Consumption Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 387-92, May.
    17. Melvin Stephens, 2001. "The Long-Run Consumption Effects Of Earnings Shocks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(1), pages 28-36, February.
    18. 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).
    19. Erich Battistin, 2003. "Errors in survey reports of consumption expenditures," IFS Working Papers W03/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    20. Greg Kaplan & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "How Much Consumption Insurance Beyond Self-Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 15553, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    21. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
    22. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2003. "The Consumption Response to Predictable Changes in Discretionary Income: Evidence from the Repayment of Vehicle Loans," NBER Working Papers 9976, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    23. 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.
    24. Banks, James & Blundell, Richard & Brugiavini, Agar, 2001. "Risk Pooling, Precautionary Saving and Consumption Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(4), pages 757-79, October.
    25. Raj Chetty & Adam Szeidl, 2006. "Consumption Commitments and Risk Preferences," NBER Working Papers 12467, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    26. Thomas, Duncan & Beegle, Kathleen & Frankenberg, Elizabeth & Sikoki, Bondan & Strauss, John & Teruel, Graciela, 2004. "Education in a crisis," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 53-85, June.
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