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Consumption inequality and intra-household allocations

  • Jeremy Lise


    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University College London)

  • Shannon Seitz

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

The consumption literature uses adult equivalence scales to measure individual level inequality. This practice imposes the assumption that there is no within household inequality. In this paper, we show that ignoring consumption inequality within households produces misleading estimates of inequality along two dimensions. First, the use of adult equivalence scales underestimates the level of cross sectional consumption inequality by 30 percent, as large differences in the earnings of husbands and wives translate into large differences in consumption allocations within households. Second, the rise in inequality since the 1970s is overstated by almost two-thirds: within household inequality declined over time as the share of income provided by wives increased. Our findings also indicate that increases in marital sorting on wages and hours worked can simultaneously explain virtually all of the decline in within household inequality and a substantial fraction of the rise in between household inequality for one and two adult households in the UK since the 1970s.

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Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W07/09.

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Date of creation: Jul 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:07/09
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  1. Blundell, Richard William & Chiappori, Pierre-André & Magnac, Thierry & Meghir, Costas, 2005. "Collective Labour Supply: Heterogeneity and Non-Participation," CEPR Discussion Papers 5287, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Browning, Martin & Francois Bourguignon & Pierre-Andre Chiappori & Valerie Lechene, 1994. "Income and Outcomes: A Structural Model of Intrahousehold Allocation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1067-96, December.
  3. Olivier Donni, 2001. "Collective Female Labor Supply: Theory and Application," Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers 141, CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal.
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  5. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 2000. "Sorting and Long-Run Inequality," NBER Working Papers 7508, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Dirk Kreuger & Fabrizio Perri, 2002. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory," Working Papers 02-15, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  7. Garry Barrett & Thomas Crossley & Christopher Worswick, 1999. "Consumption and Income Inequality in Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 404, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  8. Martin Browning & Pierre-André Chiappori & Arthur Lewbel, 2013. "Estimating Consumption Economies of Scale, Adult Equivalence Scales, and Household Bargaining Power," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1267-1303.
  9. Jay H. Hong & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2004. "Life insurance and household consumption," Working Papers 04-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  10. Kanbur, Ravi & Haddad, Lawrence, 1994. "Are Better Off Households More Unequal or Less Unequal?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(3), pages 445-58, July.
  11. Browning, M. & Chiappori, P.A., 1994. "Efficient Intra-Household allocations: A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," DELTA Working Papers 94-16, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  12. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
  13. Pendakur, Krishna, 1998. "Changes in Canadian Family Income and Family Consumption Inequality between 1978 and 1992," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 44(2), pages 259-83, June.
  14. Shannon N. Seitz, 2002. "Accounting for Racial Differences in Marriage and Employment," Working Papers 1009, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
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  16. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1997. "Consumption, inequality and income uncertainty," IFS Working Papers W97/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  17. Haddad, L. & Kanbur, R., 1989. "How Serious Is The Neglectof Intra-Household Inequality?," Papers 450, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  18. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1984. "Inequality Decomposition by Population Subgroups," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1369-85, November.
  19. Thomas F. Crossley & Krishna Pendakur, 2002. "Consumption Inequality," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-09, McMaster University.
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  21. Erich Battistin, 2003. "Errors in survey reports of consumption expenditures," IFS Working Papers W03/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  22. Frederic Vermeulen, 2000. "Collective household models: principles and main results," Public Economics Working Paper Series ces0028, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën, Working Group Public Economics.
  23. Manser, Marilyn & Brown, Murray, 1980. "Marriage and Household Decision-Making: A Bargaining Analysis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 21(1), pages 31-44, February.
  24. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Fortin, Bernard & Lacroix, Guy, 2001. "Marriage Market, Divorce Legislation and Household Labor Supply," Cahiers de recherche 0103, Université Laval - Département d'économique.
  25. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Pierre-André Chiappori & Richard Blundell & Costas Meghir, 2002. "Collective labour supply with children," IFS Working Papers W02/08, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  27. Kenneth Train, 2003. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number emetr2, March.
  28. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
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