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Revisiting the Income Effect: Gasoline Prices and Grocery Purchases

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  • Villas-Boas, Sofia B
  • Gicheva, Dora
  • Hastings, Justine

Abstract

This paper examines the importance of income effects in purchase decisions for every-day products by analyzing the effect of gasoline prices on grocery expenditures. Using detailed scanner data from a large grocery chain as well as data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES), we show that consumers re-allocate their expenditures across and within food-consumption categories in order to offset necessary increases in gasoline expenditures when gasoline prices rise. We show that gasoline expenditures rise one-for-one with gasoline prices, consumers substitute away from food-away-from-home and towards groceries in order to partially offset their increased expenditures on gasoline, and that within grocery category, consumers substitute away from regular shelf-price products and towards promotional items in order to save money on overall grocery expenditures. On average, consumers are able to decrease the net price paid per grocery item by 5-11% in response to a 100% increase in gasoline prices. We find evidence that this consumer substitution effect happens given retail price adjustments due to pass-though of higher gasoline prices into retail prices, by investigating two price indexes; one that uses shelf-prices and one that uses prices net of promotional discounts (net-prices are equal to shelf-prices if there is no discount). We assess the effect of gasoline prices on each of the price indexes, controlling for store-level fixed-effects and regional time trends, finding a 5 percent increase in net prices as a result of a 100 percent increase in gasoline prices. Product prices appear to adjust flexibly with gasoline prices through the size of discounts and promotions, which change weekly (or by-weekly) even though shelf-prices remain stable. Our results show that consumers respond to permanent changes in income from gasoline prices by substituting towards lower-cost food at the grocery store and lower priced items within grocery category. The substitution away from
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  • Villas-Boas, Sofia B & Gicheva, Dora & Hastings, Justine, 2010. "Revisiting the Income Effect: Gasoline Prices and Grocery Purchases," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt8448m75z, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:agrebk:qt8448m75z
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    1. repec:aea:aejpol:v:9:y:2017:i:3:p:314-47 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Dora Gicheva & Justine Hastings & Sofia Villas-Boas, 2010. "Investigating Income Effects in Scanner Data: Do Gasoline Prices Affect Grocery Purchases?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 480-484, May.
    3. Peter Berck & Ephraim Leibtag & Alex Solis & Sofia Villas-Boas, 2009. "Patterns of Pass-through of Commodity Price Shocks to Retail Prices," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1456-1461.
    4. Dora Gicheva & Justine Hastings & Sofia Villas-Boas, 2007. "Revisiting the Income Effect: Gasoline Prices and Grocery Purchases," NBER Working Papers 13614, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Laurence Levin & Matthew S. Lewis & Frank A. Wolak, 2017. "High Frequency Evidence on the Demand for Gasoline," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 314-347, August.
    6. Meghan R. Busse & Christopher R. Knittel & Florian Zettelmeyer, 2009. "Pain at the Pump: The Differential Effect of Gasoline Prices on New and Used Automobile Markets," NBER Working Papers 15590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:eee:transa:v:113:y:2018:i:c:p:227-242 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Nazneen Ferdous & Abdul Pinjari & Chandra Bhat & Ram Pendyala, 2010. "A comprehensive analysis of household transportation expenditures relative to other goods and services: an application to United States consumer expenditure data," Transportation, Springer, vol. 37(3), pages 363-390, May.
    9. Nicholas Li & Gee Hee Hong, 2013. "Market Structure and Cost Pass-Through in Retail," Working Papers tecipa-470, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
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    17. Boudhayan Sen & Jiwoong Shin & K. Sudhir, 2012. "Demand Externalities from Co-Location," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1850, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social and Behavioral Sciences;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • L10 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - General
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce

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