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Household Response to the 2008 Tax Rebate: Survey Evidence and Aggregate Implications

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  • Claudia R. Sahm
  • Matthew D. Shapiro
  • Joel B. Slemrod

Abstract

Only about one-fifth of respondents in the Reuters/University of Michigan survey report that the 2008 tax rebates led them to mostly increase spending, while over half said it would lead them to mostly pay off debt. Of those in the mostly-spend category, the response was swift, with over 80 percent reporting increasing their spending within three months of receiving their rebate. Older households, households with higher wealth and higher income, and those expecting future income growth were generally more likely to spend the rebates. A review of other surveys confirms the general pattern of results and suggests that small changes in survey design do not have a major effect on the distribution of responses. The distribution of survey answers corresponds to an aggregate MPC after one year of about one-third. The paper combines this survey-based estimate of the MPC and the survey-based estimate of the timing of spending to show that the rebates help explain the aggregate movements in saving, spending, and debt in 2008. Because the rebate was large and distributed over a short period, it had a non-trivial effect on total spending in the second and third quarters of 2008. Nonetheless, the results imply that the rebates provided only a modest stimulus to spending per dollar of rebate.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel B. Slemrod, 2009. "Household Response to the 2008 Tax Rebate: Survey Evidence and Aggregate Implications," NBER Working Papers 15421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15421
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nicholas S. Souleles & Jonathan A. Parker & David S. Johnson, 2006. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(5), pages 1589-1610, December.
    2. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates-Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(6), pages 986-1019, December.
    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. Shapiro, Matthew D & Slemrod, Joel, 1995. "Consumer Response to the Timing of Income: Evidence from a Change in Tax Withholding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 274-283, March.
    5. Morris A. Davis & Michael G. Palumbo, 2001. "A primer on the economics and time series econometrics of wealth effects," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-09, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
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    Cited by:

    1. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2012. "Check in the Mail or More in the Paycheck: Does the Effectiveness of Fiscal Stimulus Depend on How It Is Delivered?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 216-250, August.
    2. Kenneth Lewis & Laurence Seidman, 2011. "Did the 2008 rebate fail? a response to Taylor and Feldstein," Journal of Post Keynesian Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(2), pages 183-204.
    3. Glenn Follette & Byron Lutz, 2010. "Fiscal Policy in the United States: Automatic Stabilizers, Discretionary Fiscal Policy Actions, and the Economy," Revista de Economía y Estadística, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas, Instituto de Economía y Finanzas, vol. 0(1), pages 41-73, January.
    4. Grant Graziani & Wilbert Van der Klaauw & Basit Zafar, 2013. "A boost in the paycheck: survey evidence on workers’ response to the 2011 payroll tax cuts," Staff Reports 592, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    5. Broda, Christian & Parker, Jonathan A., 2014. "The Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008 and the aggregate demand for consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(S), pages 20-36.
    6. Leigh Andrew, 2012. "How Much Did the 2009 Australian Fiscal Stimulus Boost Demand? Evidence from Household-Reported Spending Effects," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-24, March.
    7. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 2015. "Balance-Sheet Households and Fiscal Stimulus: Lessons from the Payroll Tax Cut and Its Expiration," NBER Working Papers 21220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Kanishka Misra & Paolo Surico, 2014. "Consumption, Income Changes, and Heterogeneity: Evidence from Two Fiscal Stimulus Programs," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 84-106, October.
    9. Jonathan A. Parker, 2015. "Why Don't Households Smooth Consumption? Evidence from a 25 Million Dollar Experiment," NBER Working Papers 21369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles & David S. Johnson & Robert McClelland, 2013. "Consumer Spending and the Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(6), pages 2530-2553, October.
    11. Zvi Hercowitz & Jeffrey R. Campbell, 2009. "Liquidity Constraints of the Middle Class," 2009 Meeting Papers 323, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    12. Tullio Jappelli & Luigi Pistaferri, 2014. "Fiscal Policy and MPC Heterogeneity," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(4), pages 107-136, October.
    13. Fuchs-Schündeln, N. & Hassan, T.A., 2016. "Natural Experiments in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    14. Shafik Hebous & Tom Zimmermann, 2016. "Can Government Demand Stimulate Private Investment? Evidence from U.S. Federal Procurement," IMF Working Papers 16/60, International Monetary Fund.
    15. Luc Arrondel & Pierre Lamarche & Frédérique Savignac, 2017. "Does Inequality Matter for the Consumption-Wealth Channel? Empirical Evidence," CESifo Working Paper Series 6676, CESifo Group Munich.
    16. Kathryn M. E. Dominguez & Matthew D. Shapiro, 2013. "Forecasting the Recovery from the Great Recession: Is This Time Different?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 147-152, May.
    17. Gabriel Chodorow-Reich & Laura Feiveson & Zachary Liscow & William Gui Woolston, 2012. "Does State Fiscal Relief during Recessions Increase Employment? Evidence from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 118-145, August.
    18. Djuric, Uros & Neugart, Michael, 2017. "Helicopter money: survey evidence on expectation formation and consumption behavior," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168062, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    19. Merike Kukk & Dmitry Kulikov & Karsten Staehr, 2016. "Estimating Consumption Responses to Income Shocks of Different Persistence Using Self-Reported Income Measures," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 62(2), pages 311-333, June.
    20. Fuster, Andreas & Kaplan, Greg & Zafar, Basit, 2018. "What would you do with $500? Spending responses to gains, losses, news, and loans," Staff Reports 843, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • E65 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Studies of Particular Policy Episodes
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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