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The Role of Consumption in Economic Fluctuations

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  • Robert E. Hall

Abstract

Consumption and income tend to move together; the correlation of their first differences is about 0.14. In most accounts, the correlation is attributed to the upward slope of the consumption function. When the publicis better off, they consume more. But in the microeconomic theory of the household, income is a variable chosen by the household. Choosing to workmore, and therefore to consume less time away from work, is a sign of diminished well being.The structural relation between earnings and consumption should have a negative slope.The explanation of the observed positive correlation of consumption and income must rest on shifts of the consumption-income relation, not movements along it. An examination of data for the U.S. in the twentieth century shows that the slope of the consumption-income relation has been approximately zero. Shifts in consumer behavior explain the positive observed correlation; they are an important, but not dominant, source of overall fluctuations in the aggregate economy.

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  • Robert E. Hall, 1984. "The Role of Consumption in Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 1391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1391
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    1. 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 971-987, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hall, Robert E, 1997. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations and the Allocation of Time," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 223-250, January.
    2. Ray C. Fair, 1986. "Sources of Output and Price Variability in a Macroeconometric Model," NBER Working Papers 2112, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Chang, Yongsung & Schorfheide, Frank, 2003. "Labor-supply shifts and economic fluctuations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(8), pages 1751-1768, November.
    4. Jia, Bijie & Kim, Hyeongwoo, 2015. "Government Spending Shocks and Private Activity: The Role of Sentiments," MPRA Paper 66263, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Yongsung Chang & Mark Bils, 2002. "Cyclical Movements in Hours and Effort under Sticky Wages," Macroeconomics 0204004, EconWPA.
    6. Peter Temin, 1998. "Causes of American business cycles: an essay in economic historiography," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 42(Jun), pages 37-64.
    7. Ramey, V.A., 2016. "Macroeconomic Shocks and Their Propagation," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    8. Farmer, Roger E. A. & Jang-Ting, Guo, 1995. "The econometrics of indeterminacy: an applied study," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 225-271, December.
    9. Blankenau, William & Ayhan Kose, M. & Yi, Kei-Mu, 2001. "Can world real interest rates explain business cycles in a small open economy?," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 25(6-7), pages 867-889, June.
    10. Mark Weder, 2006. "Some Observations on the Great Depression in Germany," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 7, pages 113-133, February.
    11. Weder, Mark, 2001. "The Great Demand Depression," CEPR Discussion Papers 3067, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Fuchs-Schündeln, N. & Hassan, T.A., 2016. "Natural Experiments in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    13. Cooper, Russell & Ejarque, Joao, 1995. "Financial intermediation and the Great Depression: a multiple equilibrium interpretation," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 285-323, December.
    14. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "The U.S. and U.K. Great Depressions Through the Lens of Neoclassical Growth Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 28-32, May.
    15. Victor Zarnowitz, 1999. "Theory and History behind Business Cycles: Are the 1990s the Onset of a Golden Age?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 69-90, Spring.
    16. Valerie A. Ramey, 2011. "Identifying Government Spending Shocks: It's all in the Timing," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(1), pages 1-50.
    17. Victor Zarnowitz, 1991. "What is a Business Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 3863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    18. Marianne Baxter & Robert G. King, 1991. "Productive externalities and business cycles," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 53, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    19. Mark Weder, 2006. "The Role Of Preference Shocks And Capital Utilization In The Great Depression," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1247-1268, November.
    20. Bahmani-Oskooee, Mohsen & Xi, Dan, 2012. "Exchange rate volatility and domestic consumption: Evidence from Japan," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 326-335.
    21. Mark Bils & Yongsung Chang, 1999. "Wages and the Allocation of Hours and Effort," NBER Working Papers 7309, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    22. M. Ayhan Kose & Bill Blankenau & Kei-Mu Yi, 1999. "World Real Interest Rates and Business Cycles in Open Economies: a Multiple Shock Approach," Computing in Economics and Finance 1999 1232, Society for Computational Economics.
    23. Luca, Pieroni & Lorusso, Marco, 2015. "Are all the fiscal policy shocks identical? Analysing the effects on private consumption of civilian and military spending shocks," MPRA Paper 69151, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    24. Pieroni, Luca & Lorusso, Marco, 2013. "The Role of Fiscal Policy Components in Private Consumption: a Re-examination of the Effects of Military and Civilian Spending," MPRA Paper 47878, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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