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Household Saving, Class Identitiy, and Conspicuous Consumption

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  • Jon D. Wisman

Abstract

The saving rate for U.S. households has long been low relative to those in other wealthy countries and in recent decades this rate has plummeted. Most studies of household saving behavior are based on the life-cycle theory of saving. However, there is doubt as to whether these studies adequately explain the low and declining rate in the U.S. This study explores two hypotheses that depart from the life-cycle explanatory framework. The first hypothesis examines the possibility that the low rate of household saving in the U.S. is related to Americans’ strong belief that vertical mobility in the U.S. is readily possible and hence their relatively weak sense of class identity. A second corollary hypothesis is that in an economy in which a high degree of vertical mobility is thought possible, a high degree of inequality in the distribution of income and wealth may reinforce the tendency to save little.

Suggested Citation

  • Jon D. Wisman, 2008. "Household Saving, Class Identitiy, and Conspicuous Consumption," Working Papers 2008-19, American University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:amu:wpaper:1908
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    File URL: http://w.american.edu/cas/economics/repec/amu/workingpapers/2008-19.pdf
    File Function: First version, 2008
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Inequality, Veblen and the crisis
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2008-11-13 18:26:49

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jon D. Wisman & Kevin Capehart, 2009. "Creative Destruction, Economic Insecurity, Stress and Epidemic Obesity," Working Papers 2009-13 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
    2. David Cayla, 2013. "European Debt Crisis: How a Public Debt Restructuring Can Solve a Private Debt Issue," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(2), pages 427-436.
    3. Setterfield, Mark & Kim, Yun K., 2016. "Debt servicing, aggregate consumption, and growth," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 22-33.
    4. Jon D. Wisman & Matthew E. Davis, 2013. "Degraded Work, Declining Community, Rising Inequality, and the Transformation of the Protestant Ethic in America: 1870–1930," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 72(5), pages 1075-1105, November.
    5. Jon D. Wisman, 2013. "Wage stagnation, rising inequality and the financial crisis of 2008," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(4), pages 921-945.
    6. Jon D. Wisman, 2013. "Labor Busted, Rising Inequality and the Financial Crisis of 1929: An Unlearned Lesson," Working Papers 2013-07, American University, Department of Economics.
    7. Sweet, Elizabeth & Nandi, Arijit & Adam, Emma K. & McDade, Thomas W., 2013. "The high price of debt: Household financial debt and its impact on mental and physical health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 94-100.
    8. Adkisson, Richard V. & Saucedo, Eduardo, 2012. "Emulation and state-by-state variations in bankruptcy rates," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 400-407.
    9. Jon Wisman, 2013. "The Growth Trap, Ecological Devastation, and the Promise of Guaranteed Employment," Challenge, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 56(2), pages 53-78.
    10. Jon D. Wisman & Barton Baker, 2009. "Increasing Inequality, Status Insecurity, Ideology, and the Financial Crisis of 2008," Working Papers 2009-14 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
    11. Mark Setterfield & Yun K. Kim, 2016. "Household Borrowing and the Possibility of ``Consumption-Driven, Profit-Led Growth’’," Working Papers 2016_01, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.
    12. Jon D. Wisman & Barton Baker, 2010. "Rising Inequality and the Financial Crises of 1929 and 2008," Working Papers 2010-10 JEL classificatio, American University, Department of Economics.
    13. Mark Setterfield & Yun K. Kim, "undated". "Household Borrowing and the Possibility of “Consumption- Driven, Profit-Led Growthâ€," Working Papers Series 39, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    14. Jon D. Wisman & Aaron Pacitti, 2014. "What the Rich Won Over the Past 35 Years and What Everyone Else Lost," Working Papers 2014-08, American University, Department of Economics.

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