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Why is consumption more log normal than income? Gibrat's law revisited

  • Erich Battistin

    ()

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • Richard Blundell

    ()

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London)

  • Arthur Lewbel

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Boston College)

Significant departures from log normality are observed in income data, in violation of Gibrat's law. We identify a new empirical regularity, which is that the distribution of consumption expenditures across households is, within cohorts, closer to log normal than the distribution of income. We explain these empirical results by showing that the logic of Gibrat's law applies not to total income, but to permanent income and to maginal utility. These findings have important implications for welfare and inequality measurement, aggregation, and econometric model analysis.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W07/08.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
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Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:07/08
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  1. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  2. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2004. "Imputing consumption in the PSID using food demand estimates from the CEX," IFS Working Papers W04/27, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Erich Battistin, 2003. "Errors in survey reports of consumption expenditures," IFS Working Papers W03/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  4. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2003. "Measuring the Well-Being of the Poor Using Income and Consumption," NBER Working Papers 9760, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2001. "Income variance dynamics and heterogenity," IFS Working Papers W01/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  6. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  7. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1995. "Income, expenditure and the living standards of UK households," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 16(3), pages 40-54, August.
  8. 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.
  9. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1997. "Consumption, inequality and income uncertainty," IFS Working Papers W97/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  10. Wooldridge, Jeffrey M. & White, Halbert, 1988. "Some Invariance Principles and Central Limit Theorems for Dependent Heterogeneous Processes," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(02), pages 210-230, August.
  11. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-67, June.
  12. Hall, Robert E, 1978. "Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 971-87, December.
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