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The consumption response to positive and negative income changes


  • Bunn, Philip

    (Bank of England)

  • Le Roux, Jeanne

    (Bank of England)

  • Reinold, Kate

    (Bank of England)

  • Surico, Paolo

    (London Business School and CEPR)


A set of newly added questions in the 2011 to 2014 Bank of England/NMG Consulting Survey reveals that British households are estimated to change their consumption by significantly more in reaction to temporary and unanticipated falls in income than to rises of the same size. Household balance sheet characteristics (including the presence of a savings buffer), concerns about credit market access and higher subjective risk of lower future income account for a sizable share of this spending asymmetry and explain significant variation in the marginal propensity to consume across households. Our findings have important implications for predicting the response of aggregate consumption to expansionary and contractionary macroeconomic policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Bunn, Philip & Le Roux, Jeanne & Reinold, Kate & Surico, Paolo, 2017. "The consumption response to positive and negative income changes," Bank of England working papers 645, Bank of England.
  • Handle: RePEc:boe:boeewp:0645

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Daniel Aaronson & Sumit Agarwal & Eric French, 2012. "The Spending and Debt Response to Minimum Wage Hikes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3111-3139, December.
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    4. Thomas F. Crossley & Cormac O'Dea & Gareth Anderson & Philip Bunn & Alice Pugh & Arzu Uluc, 2016. "The Bank of England / NMG Survey of Household Finances," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 37, pages 131-152, March.
    5. Sumit Agarwal & Wenlan Qian, 2014. "Consumption and Debt Response to Unanticipated Income Shocks: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Singapore," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(12), pages 4205-4230, December.
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    1. Corrado, Luisa & Silgado-Gómez, Edgar & Yoo, Donghoon & Waldmann, Robert, 2022. "Ambiguous economic news and heterogeneity: What explains asymmetric consumption responses?," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C).
    2. Ampudia, Miguel & Georgarakos, Dimitris & Slacalek, Jiri & Tristani, Oreste & Vermeulen, Philip & Violante, Giovanni L., 2018. "Monetary policy and household inequality," Working Paper Series 2170, European Central Bank.
    3. Régis Barnichon & Christian Matthes, 2016. "Understanding the size of the government spending multiplier: It's in the sign," Economics Working Papers 1555, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    4. Andreas Fuster & Greg Kaplan & Basit Zafar, 2021. "What Would You Do with $500? Spending Responses to Gains, Losses, News, and Loans [The Spending and Debt Response to Minimum Wage Hikes]," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 88(4), pages 1760-1795.
    5. Tullio Jappelli & Luigi Pistaferri, 2020. "Reported MPC and Unobserved Heterogeneity," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 275-297, November.
    6. Miguel Ángel Mendoza González, 2020. "Sensibilidad y asimetrías ante choques de ingreso en el consumo privado de México, 1995-2017. (Sensitivity and asymmetries of income shocks in Mexico's private consumption, 1995-2017)," Ensayos Revista de Economia, Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon, Facultad de Economia, vol. 0(1), pages 21-58, May.
    7. Mosley, Max, 2021. "The importance of being earners: Modelling the implications of changes to welfare contributions on macroeconomic recovery," MPRA Paper 108620, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Yoo, Donghoon, 2019. "Ambiguous information, permanent income, and consumption fluctuations," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 79-96.
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    15. Sang-yoon Song, 2020. "Leverage, Hand-to-Mouth Households, and Heterogeneity of the Marginal Propensity to Consume: Evidence from South Korea," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 18(4), pages 1213-1244, December.

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    More about this item


    MPC asymmetry; household balance sheet; heterogeneity; transmission mechanism;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy


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