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Individual Learning About Consumption

  • Todd W Allen
  • Christopher D Carroll

The standard approach to modelling consumption/saving problems is to assume that the decisionmaker is solving a dynamic stochastic optimization problem However under realistic descriptions of utility and uncertainty the optimal consumption/saving decision is so difficult that only recently economists have managed to find solutions using numerical methods that require previously infeasible amounts of computation Yet empirical evidence suggests that household behavior conforms fairly well with the prescriptions of the optimal solution raising the question of how average households can solve problems that economists until recently could not This paper examines whether consumers might be able to find a reasonably good ’rule-of-thumb?approximation to optimal behavior by trial-and-error methods as Friedman (1953) proposed long ago We find that such individual learning methods can reliably identify reasonably good rules of thumb only if the consumer is able to spend absurdly large amounts of time searching for a good rule

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Paper provided by The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number 444.

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Date of creation: Mar 2001
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Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:444
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  1. Angus Deaton, 1989. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," NBER Working Papers 3196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(4), pages 1797-1855, December.
  3. Christopher D. Carroll, 1997. "Death to the Log-Linearized Consumption Euler Equation! (And Very Poor Health to the Second-Order Approximation)," NBER Working Papers 6298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Stephen Zeldes, . "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 20-86, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  5. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
  6. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  7. Carroll, Christopher D, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55, February.
  8. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
  9. Carroll, Christopher D & Kimball, Miles S, 1996. "On the Concavity of the Consumption Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 981-92, July.
  10. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521589819 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Glenn R. Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 03-95, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  12. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521589833 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
  14. McCarthy, Jonathan, 1995. "Imperfect insurance and differing propensities to consume across households," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 301-327, November.
  15. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521589826 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, With and Without Liquidity Constraints (Expanded Version)," NBER Working Papers 8387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Hubbard, R. Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1994. "The importance of precautionary motives in explaining individual and aggregate saving," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-125, June.
  18. Sushil Bikhchandani & David Hirshleifer & Ivo Welch, 1998. "Learning from the Behavior of Others: Conformity, Fads, and Informational Cascades," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 151-170, Summer.
  19. Gale, Douglas, 1996. "What have we learned from social learning?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 617-628, April.
  20. Carroll, Christopher D, 1994. "How Does Future Income Affect Current Consumption?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(1), pages 111-47, February.
  21. Lettau, Martin, 1997. "Explaining the facts with adaptive agents: The case of mutual fund flows," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 21(7), pages 1117-1147, June.
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