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

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  • Erich Battistin

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

  • Richard Blundell

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and IFS and UCL)

  • Arthur Lewbel

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Boston College)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Erich Battistin & Richard Blundell & Arthur Lewbel, 2007. "Why is consumption more log normal than income? Gibrat's law revisited," IFS Working Papers W07/08, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:07/08
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. 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 971-987, December.
    3. 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.
    4. Milton Friedman, 1957. "Introduction to "A Theory of the Consumption Function"," NBER Chapters,in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
    9. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-467, June.
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    12. Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2004. "Income Variance Dynamics and Heterogeneity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 1-32, January.
    13. Milton Friedman, 1957. "A Theory of the Consumption Function," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie57-1, July.
    14. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244.
    15. Erich Battistin, 2002. "Errors in Survey Reports of Consumption Expenditures," 10th International Conference on Panel Data, Berlin, July 5-6, 2002 C4-2, International Conferences on Panel Data.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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