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Finite Lifetimes, Borrowing Constraints, and Short-Run Fiscal Policy

  • R. Glenn Hubbard
  • Kenneth L. Judd

Recent developments in public finance in the analysis of dynamic government debt policies have emphasized effects on the distribution of real resources across generations. At the same time, macroeconomists have emphasized the importance of the length of the time horizon over which agents optimize their decisions about consumption for judging the effects of fiscal policy on aggregate demand. Much of the discussion of these issues has focused on whether linkages among generations are sufficient to give consumers infinite horizons. To the extent that horizons are finite, debt burdens can be shifted to future generations, and substitutions of debt for taxes have real effects. This paper argues that, as a matter of quantitative significance, theoretical and empirical emphasis on the importance of finite horizons for the analysis of many fiscal policies is misplaced. Studies of the role of finite horizons in determining the effects of short-run fiscal policies on consumption have been conducted largely under the assumption of perfect capital markets. We show that while the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) out of temporary tax changes is nonzero in finite- horizon models, it is not very large. We demonstrate that the MPC is, however, quite sensitive to the importance of restrictions on borrowing in the economy. The clear implication is that shifting emphasis from the length of the planning horizon to the structure of capital markets is an important step for empirical research.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2158.

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Date of creation: Feb 1987
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2158
Note: ME
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  1. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 305-46, April.
  2. R. Glenn Hubbard & Kenneth L. Judd, 1985. "Social Security and Individual Welfare: Precautionary Saving, LiquidityConstraints, and the Payroll Tax," NBER Working Papers 1736, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven & David A. Wise, 1987. "Issues in Pension Economics," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi87-1, December.
  4. Zeldes, Stephen P, 1989. "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 104(2), pages 275-98, May.
  5. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Fumio Hayashi, 1985. "Tests for Liquidity Constraints: A Critical Survey," NBER Working Papers 1720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Ben S. Bernanke, 1981. "Permanent Income, Liquidity, and Expenditure on Automobiles: Evidence from Panel Data," NBER Working Papers 0756, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Fumio Hayashi, 1979. "The Permanent Income Hypothesis: Estimation and Testing," Discussion Papers 484, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  9. Marjorie A. Flavin, 1984. "Excess Sensitivity of Consumption to Current Income: Liquidity Constraints or Myopia?," NBER Working Papers 1341, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. James M. Poterba & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Finite Lifetimes and the Effects of Budget Deficits on National Savings," Working papers 434, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  11. Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1984. "Taxation and Savings - A Neoclassical Perspective," NBER Working Papers 1302, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1981. "The Adjustment of Consumption to Changing Expectations about Future Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 974-1009, October.
  13. Martin Feldstein, 1980. "Government Deficits and Aggregate Demand," NBER Working Papers 0435, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Olivier J. Blanchard, 1984. "Debt, Deficits and Finite Horizons," NBER Working Papers 1389, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Barsky, Robert B & Mankiw, N Gregory & Zeldes, Stephen P, 1986. "Ricardian Consumers with Keynesian Propensities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 676-91, September.
  16. Robert E. Hall & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1980. "The Sensitivity of Consumption to Transitory Income: Estimates from Panel Data on Households," NBER Working Papers 0505, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. J. Bradford De Long & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "The Changing Cyclical Variability of Economic Activity in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1450, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. R. Glenn Hubbard, 1984. "Uncertain Lifetimes, Pensions, and Individual Saving," NBER Working Papers 1363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. R. Glenn Hubbard & Kenneth L. Judd, 1986. "Liquidity Constraints, Fiscal Policy, and Consumption," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 17(1), pages 1-60.
  20. Alan S. Blinder & Angus Deaton, 1985. "The Time Series Consumption Function Revisited," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 16(2), pages 465-521.
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