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A Reappraisal of Recent Tests of the Permanent Income Hypothesis


  • Charles R. Nelson


Hall (1978) showed that the permanent income hypothesis implies that consumption (1) follows a random walk, and (2) cannot be predicted by past income. Reexamination of Hall's data results in rejection of the random walk hypothesis in favor of the alternative hypothesis of positively autocorrelated changes. Evidently this is due to Hall's choice of a quadratic utility function. A logrithmic utility function implies a random walk in the log of consumption which is supported by the data. Hall reported that past income had a negative but insignificant relation to consumption. Changes in the log of income, however, do have a positive predictive relation to changes in the log of consumption. The adjustment of consumption to income seems to be spread over two quarters. Flavin's (1981) test of the theory is formally equivalent to Hall's except for assuming stationarity around a time trend. Mankiw and Shapiro (1984) have pointed out that the effect of detrending may be to tend to rejection of the theory when it is in fact correct. For Hall's data the effect of detrending is to reverse the sign of the coefficient on past income. Its magnitude is what the Mankiw-Shapiro analysis predicts under the permanent income hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles R. Nelson, 1985. "A Reappraisal of Recent Tests of the Permanent Income Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 1687, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1687
    Note: ME

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gregory Mankiw, N. & Shapiro, Matthew D., 1985. "Trends, random walks, and tests of the permanent income hypothesis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 165-174, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Duclos, Jean-Yves, 1998. "Social evaluation functions, economic isolation and the Suits index of progressivity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 103-121, July.
    2. Duclos, J.Y., 1995. "Economic Isolation, Inequality, and the Suits Index of Progressivity," Papers 9510, Laval - Recherche en Politique Economique.
    3. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin & Marshall, David, 1991. "The Permanent Income Hypothesis Revisited," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 397-423, March.
    4. Weber, Christian E., 2002. "Intertemporal non-separability and "rule of thumb" consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 293-308, March.
    5. Campbell, John Y, 1987. "Does Saving Anticipate Declining Labor Income? An Alternative Test of the Permanent Income Hypothesis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(6), pages 1249-1273, November.
    6. Liping Gao & Hyeongwoo Kim & Yaoqi Zhang, 2013. "Revisiting the Empirical Inconsistency of the Permanent Income Hypothesis: Evidence from Rural China," Auburn Economics Working Paper Series auwp2013-05, Department of Economics, Auburn University.
    7. Gordon de Brouwer, 1996. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints in Australia and East Asia: Does Financial Integration Matter?," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9602, Reserve Bank of Australia.
    8. Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1995. "Individual Income, Incomplete Information, and Aggregate Consumption," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 805-840, July.
    9. James M. Nason, 1991. "The permanent income hypothesis when the bliss point is stochastic," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 46, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    10. Gilbert Colletaz & Jean-Pierre Gourlaouen, 1990. "Coïntégration et structure par terme des taux d'intérêt," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 41(4), pages 687-712.
    11. Jim Malley & Hassan Molana, "undated". "The Permanent Income Hypothesis Revisited: Reconciling Evidence from Aggregate Data with the Representative Consumer Behaviour," ICMM Discussion Papers 48, Department of Economics University of Strathclyde.
    12. Stock, James H. & West, Kenneth D., 1988. "Integrated regressors and tests of the permanent-income hypothesis," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 85-95, January.
    13. Joseph P. Dejuan & Maria Jose Luengo-Prado, 2006. "Consumption and Aggregate Constraints: International Evidence," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 68(1), pages 81-99, February.
    14. West, Kenneth D., 1988. "The insensitivity of consumption to news about income," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 17-33, January.
    15. Jim Malley & Hassan Molana, 1999. "The Permanent Income Hypothesis Revisited," Dundee Discussion Papers in Economics 105, Economic Studies, University of Dundee.

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