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Check in the mail or more in the paycheck: does the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus depend on how it is delivered?

Author

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  • Claudia R. Sahm
  • Matthew D. Shapiro
  • Joel B. Slemrod

Abstract

Recent fiscal policies have aimed to stimulate household spending. In 2008, most households received one-time economic stimulus payments. In 2009, most working households received the Making Work Pay tax credit in the form of reduced withholding; other households, mainly retirees, received one-time payments. This paper quantifies the spending response to these different policies and examines whether the spending response differed according to whether the stimulus was delivered as a one-time payment or as a flow of payments in the form of reduced withholding. Based on responses from a representative sample of households in the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the paper finds that the reduction in withholding led to a substantially lower rate of spending than the one-time payments. Specifically, 25 percent of households reported that the one-time economic stimulus payment in 2008 led them to mostly increase their spending while only 13 percent reported that the extra pay from the lower withholding in 2009 led them to mostly increase their spending. The paper uses several approaches to isolate the effect of the delivery mechanism from the changing aggregate and individual conditions. Responses to a hypothetical stimulus in 2009, examination of "free responses" concerning differing responses to the policies, and regression analysis controlling for individual economic conditions and demographics all support the primary importance of the income delivery mechanism in determining the spending response to the policies.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel B. Slemrod, 2010. "Check in the mail or more in the paycheck: does the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus depend on how it is delivered?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2010-40, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2010-40
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nicholas S. Souleles & Jonathan A. Parker & David S. Johnson, 2006. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1589-1610, December.
    2. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2010. "Household Response to the 2008 Tax Rebate: Survey Evidence and Aggregate Implications," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 24, pages 69-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2012. "Check in the Mail or More in the Paycheck: Does the Effectiveness of Fiscal Stimulus Depend on How It Is Delivered?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 216-250, August.
    4. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2012. "Check in the Mail or More in the Paycheck: Does the Effectiveness of Fiscal Stimulus Depend on How It Is Delivered?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 216-250, August.
    2. Zizza, Roberta & Adamopoulou, Effrosyni, 2017. "Regular versus lump-sum payments in union contracts and household consumption," Working Paper Series 2013, European Central Bank.
    3. Christopher D. Carroll, 2012. "Implications of Wealth Heterogeneity For Macroeconomics," Economics Working Paper Archive 597, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
    4. Grant Graziani & Wilbert Van der Klaauw & Basit Zafar, 2013. "A boost in the paycheck: survey evidence on workers’ response to the 2011 payroll tax cuts," Staff Reports 592, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    5. Miles Kimball, 2015. "Cognitive Economics," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 167-181, June.
    6. Bracha, Anat & Cooper, Daniel, 2014. "Asymmetric responses to income changes: The payroll tax increase versus tax refund in 2013," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 124(3), pages 534-538.
    7. Damon Jones, 2012. "Inertia and Overwithholding: Explaining the Prevalence of Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 158-185, February.
    8. Tobias Cwik & Volker Wieland, 2011. "Keynesian government spending multipliers and spillovers in the euro area," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 26(67), pages 493-549, July.
    9. Elinder, Mikael & Persson, Lovisa, 2014. "Property Taxation, Bounded Rationality and House Prices," Working Paper Series 1029, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    10. Karlan, Dean & Osman, Adam & Zinman, Jonathan, 2016. "Follow the money not the cash: Comparing methods for identifying consumption and investment responses to a liquidity shock," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 11-23.
    11. Bernd Hayo & Matthias Uhl, 2017. "Taxation and consumption: evidence from a representative survey of the German population," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(53), pages 5477-5490, November.
    12. Fuchs-Schündeln, N. & Hassan, T.A., 2016. "Natural Experiments in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    13. Bazzi, Samuel & Sumarto, Sudarno & Suryahadi, Asep, 2013. "It's All in the Timing:Household Expenditure and Labor Supply Responses to Unconditional Cash Transfers," MPRA Paper 57892, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 31 Nov 2013.
    14. Elinder, Mikael & Persson, Lovisa, 2014. "Property taxation, bounded rationality and housing prices," Working Paper Series, Center for Fiscal Studies 2014:6, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
    15. Bracha, Anat & Cooper, Daniel, 2013. "Asymmetric responses to tax-induced changes in personal income: the 2013 payroll tax hike versus anticipated 2012 tax refunds," Public Policy Brief, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    16. Justine Hastings & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2012. "Mental Accounting and Consumer Choice: Evidence from Commodity Price Shocks," NBER Working Papers 18248, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Bazzi, Samuel & Sumarto, Sudarno & Suryahadi, Asep, 2015. "It's all in the timing: Cash transfers and consumption smoothing in a developing country," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 119(C), pages 267-288.
    18. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2014. "Transfer Payments and the Macroeconomy: The Effects of Social Security Benefit Changes, 1952-1991," NBER Working Papers 20087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption (Economics) ; Fiscal policy;

    JEL classification:

    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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