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A Tax-Based Estimate of the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution

  • Jonathan Gruber

One of the most important behavioral parameters in macroeconomics is the elasticity of intertemporal substitution (EIS). Starting with the seminal work of Hall (1978), researchers have used an Euler equation framework to estimate the EIS, relating the growth rate of consumption to the after-tax interest rate facing consumers. This large literature has, however, produced very mixed results, perhaps due to an important limitation: the impact of the interest rate on consumption or savings is identified by time series movements in interest rates. Yet the factors that cause time series movements in interest rates may themselves be correlated with consumption or savings decisions. I address this problem by using variation across individuals in the capital income tax rate. Conditional on observable characteristics of individuals, tax rate movements cause exogenous shifts in the after-tax interest rate. Using data on total non-durable consumption from the Consumer Expenditure Survey over two decades, I estimate a surprisingly high EIS of 2. This finding is robust to a variety of specification checks.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11945.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11945
Note: EFG PE
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  1. Christopher D Carroll, 1997. "Death to the Log-Linearized Consumption euler Equation! (And Very Poor Health to the Second-Order Approximation)," Economics Working Paper Archive 390, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
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  3. 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.
  4. Stephen Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 24-85, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  5. Richard Blundell & Martin Browning & Costas Meghir, 1993. "Consumer demand and the life-cycle allocation of household expenditures," IFS Working Papers W93/11, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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  8. Attanasio, Orazio P & Browning, Martin, 1995. "Consumption over the Life Cycle and over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1118-37, December.
  9. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate and Aggregation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 631-49, July.
  10. Robert E. Hall, 1981. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," NBER Working Papers 0720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Douglas W. Elmendorf, 1996. "The effect of interest-rate changes on household saving and consumption: a survey," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-27, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1995. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1121-57, December.
  13. Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "Capital, Interest, and Aggregate Intertemporal Substitution," NBER Working Papers 9373, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Karen E. Dynan, 1993. "How prudent are consumers?," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 135, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  15. Lawrance, Emily C, 1991. "Poverty and the Rate of Time Preference: Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(1), pages 54-77, February.
  16. Shea, John, 1995. "Union Contracts and the Life-Cycle/Permanent-Income Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 186-200, March.
  17. Hall, Robert E, 1978. "Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 971-87, December.
  18. 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.
  19. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-44, September.
  20. Dynan, Karen E, 1993. "How Prudent Are Consumers?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 1104-13, December.
  21. Evans, Owen J, 1983. "Tax Policy, the Interest Elasticity of Saving, and Capital Accumulation: Numerical Analysis of Theoretical Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 398-410, June.
  22. Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, 2002. "Limited Asset Market Participation and the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 825-853, August.
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