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Consumption-Wealth Comovement of the Wrong Sign

  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte C. Madrian
  • Andrew Metrick

Economic theory predicts that an unexpected wealth windfall should increase consumption shortly after the windfall is received. We test this prediction using administrative records on over 40,000 401(k) accounts. Contrary to theory, we estimate a negative short-run marginal propensity to consume out of idiosyncratic 401(k) capital gains shocks. These results cannot be interpreted as standard intertemporal substitution, since the idiosyncratic returns that we study do not predict future returns. Instead, our findings imply that many investors are influenced by a positive feedback effect, through which higher recent returns encourage higher short-run saving. Like any other animal, 401(k) participants appear to increase behaviors that have been associated with high rewards in the past.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10454.

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Date of creation: Apr 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10454
Note: AP EFG
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2001. "For Better or For Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Working Papers 8651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. Erev, Ido & Roth, Alvin E, 1998. "Predicting How People Play Games: Reinforcement Learning in Experimental Games with Unique, Mixed Strategy Equilibria," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(4), pages 848-81, September.
  4. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
  5. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Decisions, and the Path of Least Resistance," JCPR Working Papers 257, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  6. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "Employees' Investment Decisions about Company Stock," NBER Working Papers 10228, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Burtless, Gary, 1986. "Social Security, Unanticipated Benefit Increases, and the Timing of Retirement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(5), pages 781-805, October.
  8. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Defined Contribution Pensions: Plan Rules, Participant Choices, and the Path of Least Resistance," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 16, pages 67-114 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gary Charness & Dan Levin, 2003. "Bayesian Updating vs. Reinforcement and Affect: A Laboratory Study," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000180, UCLA Department of Economics.
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