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Consumption vs. Expenditure

  • Mark Aguiar
  • Erik Hurst

Standard tests of the permanent income hypothesis (PIH) using data on nondurables typically equate expenditures with consumption. However, as noted by Becker (1965), consumption is the output of a home production' function that uses both expenditure and time as inputs. With this in mind, we revisit the retirement consumption puzzle by documenting that the dramatic decline in expenditures at the time of retirement is matched by an equally dramatic rise in time spent on home production. The innovation of our paper is that we empirically disentangle changes in actual consumption from changes in expenditures. To do so, we use a novel data set which collects detailed food diaries for a large cross-section of U.S. households. We show that despite the decline in food expenditures, neither the quantity nor the quality of food intake deteriorates with retirement status. However, unemployed households experience a decline in consumption commensurate to the impact of job displacement on permanent income. Taken together, the results on retirement and unemployment highlight how direct measures of consumption distinguish between anticipated and unanticipated shocks to income, while using expenditure alone obscures this difference and leads to false rejections of the PIH.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10307.

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Date of creation: Feb 2004
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Publication status: published as Aguiar, Mark and Erik Hurst. “Consumption vs Expenditure.” Journal of Political Economy 113, 5 (October 2005): 919-948.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10307
Note: EFG
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  1. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi, 1991. "The Allocation of Capital and Time over the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1188-214, December.
  2. Martin Browning & Annamaria Lusardi, 1996. "Household Saving: Micro Theories and Micro Facts," Discussion Papers 96-01, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  3. Topel, Robert H, 1991. "Specific Capital, Mobility, and Wages: Wages Rise with Job Seniority," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 145-76, February.
  4. Raffaele Miniaci & Chiara Monfardini & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Is there a retirement consumption puzzle in Italy?," IFS Working Papers W03/14, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Shelly Lundberg & Richard Startz & Steven Stillman, 2001. "The Retirement-Consumption Puzzle: A Marital Bargaining Approach," Working Papers 01-04, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  6. Jess Benhabib & Richard Rogerson & Randall Wright, 1991. "Homework in macroeconomics: household production and aggregate fluctuations," Staff Report 135, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  7. Ron Cronovich & Rennae Daneshvary & R. Keith Schwer, 1997. "The determinants of coupon usage," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(12), pages 1631-1641.
  8. Steven J. Haider & Melvin Stephens, 2007. "Is There a Retirement-Consumption Puzzle? Evidence Using Subjective Retirement Expectations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 247-264, May.
  9. Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Is there a Daily Discount Rate? Evidence from the Food Stamp Nutrition Cycle," Microeconomics 0304005, EconWPA, revised 21 Apr 2003.
  10. 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.
  11. McGrattan, Ellen R & Rogerson, Richard & Wright, Randall, 1997. "An Equilibrium Model of the Business Cycle with Household Production and Fiscal Policy," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 38(2), pages 267-90, May.
  12. Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor, 1993. "Working in the Market, Working at Home, and the Acquisition of Skills: A General-Equilibrium Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 893-907, September.
  13. Urban J. Jermann & Marianne Baxter, 1999. "Household Production and the Excess Sensitivity of Consumption to Current Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 902-920, September.
  14. James Banks & Richard Blundell & Sarah Tanner, 1995. "Is there a retirement-savings puzzle?," IFS Working Papers W95/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  15. Stevens, Ann Huff, 1997. "Persistent Effects of Job Displacement: The Importance of Multiple Job Losses," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 165-88, January.
  16. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1, October.
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