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The Relative Income Hypothesis

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  • Francisco Alvarez-Cuadrado
  • Ngo Van Long

Abstract

We propose an overlapping generations economy where households care about relative consumption, the difference between their consumption and the consumption of their reference group. An individual's consumption is driven by the comparison of his lifetime income and the lifetime income of his reference group; hence the paper offers a permanent income version of the Duesenberry's relative income hypothesis. Across households the saving ratio increases with income while aggregate saving is independent of the income distribution. Positional concerns lead agents to over-consume, over-work and under-save. We propose a simple tax schedule that induces the competitive economy to achieve the efficient allocation. Nous proposons une économie caractérisée par des générations imbriquées et des ménages qui accordent une importance à la consommation relative, soit la différence entre leur consommation et celle de leur groupe de référence. Les habitudes de consommation d'un individu sont dictées par la comparaison du revenu qu'il gagnera au cours de sa vie avec celui de son groupe de référence. Le document offre ainsi une version de l'hypothèse du revenu relatif avancée par Duesenberry qui tient compte du revenu permanent. Dans l'ensemble des ménages, le ratio d'épargne augmente en fonction du revenu, mais l'épargne globale est indépendante de la répartition du revenu. Les préoccupations des agents concernant leur position incitent ces derniers à consommer et à travailler de façon excessive et à épargner insuffisamment. Nous proposons un programme d'imposition qui encourage l'économie concurrentielle à atteindre une répartition efficiente.

Suggested Citation

  • Francisco Alvarez-Cuadrado & Ngo Van Long, 2008. "The Relative Income Hypothesis," CIRANO Working Papers 2008s-18, CIRANO.
  • Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:2008s-18
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    relative consumption; relative income hypothesis; permanent income hypothesis; consommation relative; hypothèse du revenu relatif; hypothèse du revenu permanent;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D62 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Externalities
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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