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Using home maintenance and repairs to smooth variable earnings

  • Joseph Gyourko
  • Joseph Tracy

Recent research indicates that the marked increase in U.S. income inequality over the last twenty-five years has not been matched by a similar increase in consumption inequality. This paper examines the role of saving/dissaving in a house as a vehicle for consumption smoothing. Data from the American Housing Survey show that expenditures on home maintenance and repairs are economically significant, amounting to roughly $1,750 per household each year. This figure is comparable to the labor literature estimates that put households' average annual transitory income variance at about $2,200. Our calculations show a significant elasticity of maintenance and repair expenditures to transitory income shocks. The elasticities are higher for less well educated households, which are more likely to be liquidity constrained than their better educated counterparts.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of New York in its series Staff Reports with number 168.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:168
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  1. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  2. Joseph Tracy & Henry Schneider & Sewin Chan, 1999. "Are stocks overtaking real estate in household portfolios?," Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, vol. 5(Apr).
  3. Susan Dynarski & Jonathan Gruber, 1997. "Can Families Smooth Variable Earnings?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(1), pages 229-303.
  4. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2002. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory," NBER Working Papers 9202, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1995. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Department of Economics Working Papers 1995-02, McMaster University.
  6. John R. Knight & Thomas Miceli & C. F. Sirmans, 2000. "Repair Expenses, Selling Contracts, and House Prices," Journal of Real Estate Research, American Real Estate Society, vol. 20(3), pages 323-336.
  7. Bennett, Paul & Peach, Richard & Peristiani, Stavros, 2001. "Structural Change in the Mortgage Market and the Propensity to Refinance," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 33(4), pages 955-75, November.
  8. Joseph G. Altonji & Aloysius Siow, 1986. "Testing the Response of Consumption to Income Changes with (Noisy) PanelData," NBER Working Papers 2012, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
  10. John Bound & Alan B. Krueger, 1989. "The Extent of Measurement Error In Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make A Right?," NBER Working Papers 2885, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Hurst, Erik & Stafford, Frank, 2004. "Home Is Where the Equity Is: Mortgage Refinancing and Household Consumption," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(6), pages 985-1014, December.
  12. Nelson, Forrest & Olson, Lawrence, 1978. "Specification and Estimation of a Simultaneous-Equation Model with Limited Dependent Variables," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 19(3), pages 695-709, October.
  13. Goetzmann, W.N. & Spiegel, M., 1992. "Non-temporal Components of Residential Real Estate Appreciation," Papers 92-20, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  14. Abowd, John M & Card, David, 1989. "On the Covariance Structure of Earnings and Hours Changes," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 411-45, March.
  15. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  16. Mendelsohn, Robert, 1977. "Empirical evidence on home improvements," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(4), pages 459-468, October.
  17. Topel, Robert H, 1986. "Local Labor Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S111-43, June.
  18. Thomas P. Boehm & Keith R. Ihlanfeldt, 1986. "The Improvement Expenditures of Urban Homeowners: An Empirical Analysis," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 14(1), pages 48-60.
  19. Reschovsky, James D, 1992. "An Empirical Investigation into Homeowner Demand for Home Upkeep and Improvement," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 5(1), pages 55-71, March.
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