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Implications of Wealth Heterogeneity For Macroeconomics

  • Christopher D. Carroll

Today’s dominant strain of macroeconomic models supposes that aggregate consumption can be understood by assuming the existence of a ‘representative agent’ whose behavior rationalizes observed outcomes. But representative agent models yield embarrassingly implausible (and empirically inaccurate) descriptions of consumption behavior. When push comes to shove, real-world forecasters (including those at the Fed) properly disregard these implications. As a result, consumption forecasting remains very much a seat-of-the-pants enterprise. I will argue that if the representative agent assumption is replaced with a model that generates wealth heterogeneity that matches the empirical data, the improved model can provide a sensible analysis of economic questions like "What might the consumption response be to economic stimulus payments?"

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Paper provided by The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number 597.

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Date of creation: May 2012
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Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:597
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  1. Gianluca Violante & Greg Kaplan, 2011. "A Model of the Consumption Response to Fiscal Stimulus Payments," 2011 Meeting Papers 243, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Case, Karl E. & Quigley, John M. & Shiller, Robert J., 2012. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus The Housing Market," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt6px1d1sc, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  3. Richard Disney & John Gathergood & Andrew Henley, 2010. "House Price Shocks, Negative Equity, and Household Consumption in the United Kingdom," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(6), pages 1179-1207, December.
  4. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2012. "Check in the Mail or More in the Paycheck: Does the Effectiveness of Fiscal Stimulus Depend on How It Is Delivered?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 216-50, August.
  5. Sabelhaus, John & Song, Jae, 2010. "The great moderation in micro labor earnings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 391-403, May.
  6. Carroll, Christopher D. & Slacalek, Jiri & Tokuoka, Kiichi, 2014. "Buffer-stock saving in a Krusell-Smith world," Working Paper Series 1633, European Central Bank.
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