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Policy Uncertainty and Precautionary Savings

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  • Francesco Giavazzi
  • Michael McMahon

Abstract

This paper uses German micro data and a quasi-natural experiment to provide new evidence on the empirical importance of precautionary savings. Our quasi-natural experiment draws on a sharp increase in uncertainty (as reported in a survey of German citizens) observed in the run-up to the 1998 general election. Our estimates are obtained from a diff-in-diff estimator and thus overcome the identification problem that often a¤ects measures of precautionary savings. We find that household saving increases significantly following the increase in uncertainty about the future path of income, suggesting a significant precautionary savings motive. We also analyze households?response in terms of labor market choices: we find evidence of a labor supply response by workers who can use the margin offered by part-time employment. While independent of the reasons why uncertainty increased in the run-up to the election, our results are suggestive of the economic effects of "wars of attrition", i.e. situations in which reforms are delayed because political parties are unable to agree on how the burden of a reform should be shared between various groups in society. Delays in adopting a reform, or the possibilty that a reform, after it has been adopted by one government might be revoked by another, raise uncertainty and induce households to save more: consumption may fall and the economy might slow down for no other reason than political uncertainty.

Suggested Citation

  • Francesco Giavazzi & Michael McMahon, 2009. "Policy Uncertainty and Precautionary Savings," Working Papers 355, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:igi:igierp:355
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Giavazzi, Francesco & McMahon, Michael, 2008. "Policy Uncertainty and Precautionary Savings," CEPR Discussion Papers 6766, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giavazzi, Francesco & McMahon, Michael, 2008. "Policy Uncertainty and Precautionary Savings," CEPR Discussion Papers 6766, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Francesco Giavazzi & Michael McMahon, 2012. "The Household Effects of Government Spending," NBER Chapters,in: Fiscal Policy after the Financial Crisis, pages 103-141 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jesus Ferreiro & Felipe Serrano, 2012. "Expectations, uncertainty and institutions. An application to the analysis of social security reforms," International Review of Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 26(2), pages 253-266, October.
    4. van Treeck, Till. & Sturn, Simon., 2012. "Income inequality as a cause of the Great Recession? : A survey of current debates," ILO Working Papers 994709343402676, International Labour Organization.
    5. Francesco Giavazzi & Michael McMahon, 2012. "The Households Effects of Government Consumption," NBER Working Papers 17837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E61 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Policy Objectives; Policy Designs and Consistency; Policy Coordination
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply

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