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Risky Income, Life Cycle Consumption, and Precautionary Savings

Listed author(s):
  • Jonathan S. Skinner

This paper argues that precautionary savings against uncertain income comprise a large fraction of aggregate savings. A closed-form approximation for life cycle consumption subject to uncertain interest rates and earnings is derived by taking a second-order Taylor-Series approximation of the Euler equations. Using empirical measures of income uncertainty, I find that precautionary savings comprises up to 56 percent of aggregate life cycle savings. The derived expression for n-period optimal consumption is easily implemented for econometric estimation, and accords well with the exact numerical solution. Empirical comparisons of savings patterns among occupational groups using the Consumer Expenditure Survey contradict the predictions of the life cycle model. Riskier occupations, such as the self-employed and salespersons, save less than other occupations, although this finding may in part reflect unobservable differences in risk aversion among occupations.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2336.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2336.

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Date of creation: Aug 1987
Publication status: published as Journal of Monetary Economics, September 1988, vol 22, pp. 237-255.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2336
Note: PE
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  1. Stephen Zeldes, "undated". "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 20-86, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
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  8. Paul A. Samuelson, 2011. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: THE KELLY CAPITAL GROWTH INVESTMENT CRITERION THEORY and PRACTICE, chapter 31, pages 465-472 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
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  10. Skinner, Jonathan, 1985. "Variable Lifespan and the Intertemporal Elasticity of Consumption," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(4), pages 616-623, November.
  11. Hakansson, Nils H, 1970. "Optimal Investment and Consumption Strategies Under Risk for a Class of Utility Functions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(5), pages 587-607, September.
  12. Finis Welch, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," UCLA Economics Working Papers 146, UCLA Department of Economics.
  13. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-1085, December.
  14. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & John B. Shoven & Avia Spivak, 1987. "Annuity Markets, Savings, and the Capital Stock," NBER Chapters, in: Issues in Pension Economics, pages 211-236 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Abel, Andrew B, 1985. "Precautionary Saving and Accidental Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 777-791, September.
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  17. N. Gregory Mankiw & Julio J. Rotemberg & Lawrence H. Summers, 1985. "Intertemporal Substitution in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(1), pages 225-251.
  18. James J. Heckman & Thomas E. Macurdy, 1980. "A Life Cycle Model of Female Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(1), pages 47-74.
  19. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
  20. Welch, Finis, 1979. "Effects of Cohort Size on Earnings: The Baby Boom Babies' Financial Bust," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 65-97, October.
  21. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1983. "Stochastic Consumption, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Asset Returns," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 249-265, April.
  22. 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.
  23. Sanford J. Grossman & Robert J. Shiller, 1980. "The Determinants of the Variability of Stock Market Prices," NBER Working Papers 0564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Miller, Bruce L., 1976. "The effect on optimal consumption of increased uncertainty in labor income in the multiperiod case," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 154-167, August.
  25. Robert B. Barsky & N. Gregory Mankiw & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1984. "Ricardian Consumers With Keynesian Propensities," NBER Working Papers 1400, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Epstein, L, 1975. "A Disaggregate Analysis of Consumer Choice under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(5-6), pages 877-892, Sept.-Nov.
  27. Miller, Bruce L, 1974. "Optimal Consumption with a Stochastic Income Stream," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(2), pages 253-266, March.
  28. Friend, Irwin & Blume, Marshall E, 1975. "The Demand for Risky Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 900-922, December.
  29. Hayne E. Leland, 1968. "Saving and Uncertainty: The Precautionary Demand for Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(3), pages 465-473.
  30. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Laurence J., 1985. "Public debt and United States saving: A new test of the neutrality hypothesis," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 55-86, January.
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