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Income Uncertainty and Household Savings in China

  • Kai Liu
  • Marcos Chamon
  • Eswar Prasad

China’s household saving rate has increased markedly since the mid-1990s and the age-savings profile has become U-shaped. We find that rising income uncertainty and pension reforms help explain both of these phenomena. Using a panel of Chinese households covering the period 1989-2006, we document that strong average income growth has been accompanied by a substantial increase in income uncertainty. Interestingly, the permanent variance of household income remains stable while it is the transitory variance that rises sharply. A calibration of a buffer-stock savings model indicates that rising savings rates among younger households are consistent with rising income uncertainty and higher saving rates among older households are consistent with a decline in the pension replacement ratio for those retiring after 1997. We conclude that rising income uncertainty and pension reforms can account for over half of the increase in the urban household savings rate in China since the mid-1990s as well as the U-shaped age-profile of savings.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 10/289.

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Length: 34
Date of creation: 01 Dec 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:10/289
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  1. Feng, Jin & He, Lixin & Sato, Hiroshi, 2009. "Public pension and household saving: Evidence from China," BOFIT Discussion Papers 2/2009, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.
  2. 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.
  3. Chong-En Bai & Jiangyong Lu & Zhigang Tao, 2006. "The Multitask Theory of State Enterprise Reform: Empirical Evidence from China," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 353-357, May.
  4. Shang-Jin Wei & Xiaobo Zhang, 2009. "The Competitive Saving Motive: Evidence from Rising Sex Ratios and Savings Rates in China," NBER Working Papers 15093, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Marcos D. Chamon & Eswar S. Prasad, 2010. "Why Are Saving Rates of Urban Households in China Rising?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(1), pages 93-130, January.
  6. Richard Herd & Hu-Wei Hu & Vincent Koen, 2010. "Providing Greater Old-Age Security in China," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 750, OECD Publishing.
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