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The Absent-Minded Consumer

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Listed:
  • John Ameriks
  • Andrew Caplin
  • John Leahy

Abstract

We present evidence that many households have only a vague notion of what they are spending on various consumption items. We then develop a life-cycle model that captures this absent-mindedness'. The model generates precautionary spending, whereby absent-minded agents tend to consume more than attentive ones. The model also predicts fluctuations over time in the level of attention, and thereby sheds new light on the sharp reduction in consumption both at retirement, and in cyclical downturns. Finally, we find patterns of attention in the data that are consistent with those predicted by the model.

Suggested Citation

  • John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2004. "The Absent-Minded Consumer," NBER Working Papers 10216, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10216
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Asking consumption questions in general purpose surveys," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(491), pages 540-567, November.
    2. Kimball, Miles S, 1990. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(1), pages 53-73, January.
    3. Banks, James & Blundell, Richard & Tanner, Sarah, 1998. "Is There a Retirement-Savings Puzzle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 769-788, September.
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    5. Erich Battistin & Raffaele Miniaci & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "What Do We Learn from Recall Consumption Data?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
    6. Kocherlakota, Narayana R., 1998. "Money Is Memory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 232-251, August.
    7. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
    8. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    9. James Dow, 1991. "Search Decisions with Limited Memory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 1-14.
    10. Steffen Huck & Wieland Müller, 2002. "Absent–Minded Drivers In The Lab: Testing Gilboa'S Model," International Game Theory Review (IGTR), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 4(04), pages 435-448.
    11. Piccione, Michele & Rubinstein, Ariel, 1997. "On the Interpretation of Decision Problems with Imperfect Recall," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, July.
    12. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2007. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 265-274, May.
    13. A. Sandmo, 1970. "The Effect of Uncertainty on Saving Decisions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(3), pages 353-360.
    14. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 2001. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth among U.S. Households?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 832-857, September.
    15. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2004. "Measuring Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 10514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Erich Battistin, 2002. "Errors in Survey Reports of Consumption Expenditures," 10th International Conference on Panel Data, Berlin, July 5-6, 2002 C4-2, International Conferences on Panel Data.
    17. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kevin Huang & Frank Caliendo, 2011. "Rationalizing multiple consumption-saving puzzles in a unified framework," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer;Higher Education Press, vol. 6(3), pages 359-388, September.
    2. Avichai Snir & Daniel Levy, 2011. "Shrinking Goods and Sticky Prices: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 2011-03, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    3. Daniel Levy & Dongwon Lee & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Robert J. Kauffman & Mark Bergen, 2011. "Price Points and Price Rigidity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1417-1431, November.
    4. repec:bla:jconsa:v:51:y:2017:i:1:p:91-112 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ulf Von Kalckreuth & Tobias Schmidt & Helmut Stix, 2014. "Using Cash to Monitor Liquidity: Implications for Payments, Currency Demand, and Withdrawal Behavior," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 46(8), pages 1753-1786, December.
    6. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
    7. Yamamoto, Yoshihiro & Suzuki, Akihiko & Fuwa, Yasuhiro & Sato, Tomohiro, 2008. "Decision-making in electrical appliance use in the home," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 1679-1686, May.
    8. Daniel Levy & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Sourav Ray & Mark Bergen, 2004. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment in the Small: An Implication of Rational Inattention," Working Papers 2004-08, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    9. Sumit Agarwal & John C Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2008. "Learning in the Credit Card Market," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002028, David K. Levine.
    10. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    11. Ni, Shawn & Seol, Youn, 2014. "New evidence on excess sensitivity of household consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 80-94.
    12. Lola Hernandez & Nicole Jonker & Anneke Kosse, 2017. "Cash versus Debit Card: The Role of Budget Control," Journal of Consumer Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 91-112, March.
    13. Reis, Ricardo, 2006. "Inattentive consumers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 1761-1800, November.
    14. Kevin X.D. Huang & Frank Caliendo, 2007. "Rationalizing Seven Consumption-Saving Puzzles in a Unified Framework," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0716, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    15. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2004. "Measuring Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 10514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Huffman, David B. & Barenstein, Matias, 2004. "Riches to Rags Every Month? The Fall in Consumption Expenditures Between Paydays," IZA Discussion Papers 1430, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    17. Ehrmann, Michael, 2006. "Rational inattention, inflation developments and perceptions after the euro cash changeover," Working Paper Series 588, European Central Bank.
    18. Sarkar, Asani & Zhang, Lingjia, 2009. "Time varying consumption covariance and dynamics of the equity premium: Evidence from the G7 countries," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 613-631, September.
    19. repec:rim:rimwps:04-07 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Michael Ehrmann, 2011. "Inflation Developments and Perceptions after the Euro Cash Changeover," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(1), pages 33-58, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics
    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment

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