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A Model of the Consumption Response to Fiscal Stimulus Payments

  • Kaplan, Greg
  • Violante, Giovanni L

A wide body of empirical evidence, based on randomized experiments, finds that 20-40 percent of fiscal stimulus payments (e.g. tax rebates) are spent on non-durable household consumption in the quarter that they are received. We develop a structural economic model to interpret this evidence. Our model integrates the classical Baumol-Tobin model of money demand into the workhorse incomplete-markets life-cycle economy. In this framework, households can hold two assets: a low-return liquid asset (e.g., cash, checking account) and a high-return illiquid asset (e.g., housing, retirement account) that carries a transaction cost. The optimal life-cycle pattern of wealth accumulation implies that many households are "wealthy hand-to-mouth": they hold little or no liquid wealth despite owning sizable quantities of illiquid assets. They therefore display large propensities to consume out of additional income. We document the existence of such households in data from the Survey of Consumer Finances. A version of the model parametrized to the 2001 tax rebate episode is able to generate consumption responses to fiscal stimulus payments that are in line with the data.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8562.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8562
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  1. Chatterjee, Satyajit & Corbae, Dean, 1992. "Endogenous Market Participation and the General Equilibrium Value of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(3), pages 615-46, June.
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  7. Jonathan A. Parker, 2011. "Consumer Spending and the Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008," 2011 Meeting Papers 254, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Oh, Hyunseung & Reis, Ricardo, 2012. "Targeted transfers and the fiscal response to the great recession," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(S), pages S50-S64.
  9. Annamaria Lusardi & Daniel Schneider & Peter Tufano, 2011. "Financially Fragile Households: Evidence and Implications," CeRP Working Papers 116, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
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  18. Jeffrey Campbell & Zvi Hercowitz, 2012. "Liquidity Constraints of the Middle Class," 2012 Meeting Papers 98, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  19. Heathcote, Jonathan & Perri, Fabrizio & Violante, Giovanni L, 2009. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States, 1967-2006," CEPR Discussion Papers 7538, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Greg Kaplan & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "How Much Consumption Insurance beyond Self-Insurance?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 53-87, October.
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  24. Misra, Kanishka & Surico, Paolo, 2011. "Heterogeneous Responses and Aggregate Impact of the 2001 Income Tax Rebates," CEPR Discussion Papers 8306, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  25. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
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