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Individual Learning About Consumption

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  • Todd W Allen
  • Christopher D Carroll

Abstract

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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  • Todd W Allen & Christopher D Carroll, 2001. "Individual Learning About Consumption," Economics Working Paper Archive 444, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:444
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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.
    2. Christopher D. Carroll, 1997. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(1), pages 1-55.
    3. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, with and without Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 23-45, Summer.
    4. Hubbard, R Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1995. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 360-399, April.
    5. repec:fth:jonhop:390 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. 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.
    7. Deaton, Angus, 1991. "Saving and Liquidity Constraints," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1221-1248, September.
    8. McCarthy, Jonathan, 1995. "Imperfect insurance and differing propensities to consume across households," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 301-327, November.
    9. Carroll Christopher Dixon, 2001. "Death to the Log-Linearized Consumption Euler Equation! (And Very Poor Health to the Second-Order Approximation)," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 1(1), pages 1-38, April.
    10. Carroll, Christopher D & Kimball, Miles S, 1996. "On the Concavity of the Consumption Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 981-992, July.
    11. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    12. Stephen P. Zeldes, 1989. "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 275-298.
    13. Gale, Douglas, 1996. "What have we learned from social learning?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 617-628, April.
    14. 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.
    15. Christopher D. Carroll, 1994. "How does Future Income Affect Current Consumption?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(1), pages 111-147.
    16. Annamaria Lusardi, 2000. "Explaining Why So Many Households Do Not Save," JCPR Working Papers 203, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ozak, Omer, 2014. "Optimal consumption under uncertainty, liquidity constraints, and bounded rationality," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 237-254.
    2. Meissner, Thomas & Rostam-Afschar, Davud, 2017. "Learning Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 273-288.
    3. Chiarella, Carl & He, Xue-Zhong & Wei, Lijian, 2015. "Learning, information processing and order submission in limit order markets," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 245-268.
    4. Tetsuo Yamamori & Kazuyuki IwataAuthor-Name: Akira Ogawa, 2014. "An Experimental Study of Money Illusion in Intertemporal Decision Making," Working Papers e85, Tokyo Center for Economic Research.
    5. Pascal Seppecher & Isabelle Salle, 2015. "Deleveraging crises and deep recessions: a behavioural approach," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(34-35), pages 3771-3790, July.
    6. Alexander L. Brown & Zhikang Eric Chua & Colin F. Camerer, 2009. "Learning and Visceral Temptation in Dynamic Saving Experiments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 197-231.
    7. Pascal Seppecher & Isabelle Salle, 2015. "Deleveraging crises and deep recessions: a behavioural approach," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(34-35), pages 3771-3790, July.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C6 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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