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The Excess Smoothness of Consumption: Identification and Interpretation

  • Marjorie A. Flavin
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    The paper investigates the implications of the omitted information problem -- that is, the econometric problem which arises because an econometrician cannot explicitly include the complete set of variables potentially used by agents -- in the context of the "excess smoothness" phenomenon posed by Deaton 11987]. The paper shows that an econometrician who fails to take into account the effects of omitted information will incorrectly conclude that an empirical finding of excess smoothness of consumption implies that the income process is nonstationary. By contrast, with a more thorough understanding of the omitted information problem, the finding of excess smoothness of consumption is easily explained with two assumptions: a) the consumption data is generated by the excess sensitivity alternative hypothesis, in which consumption is a weighted average of current income and permanent income, and b) agents are forecasting on the basis of a larger information set than the econometrician. Further, excess smoothness is revealed to be consistent with a wide range of stationary income processes as well as nonstationary income processes. Thus the common presumption that the excess smoothness phenomenon is linked in an essential way to the stationarity or nonstationarity of the income process evaporates when omitted information is taken into consideration.

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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2807.pdf
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    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2807.

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    Date of creation: Dec 1988
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    Publication status: published as Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 60, no. 204 (1993): 651-666.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2807
    Note: EFG
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.org
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    1. 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.
    2. West, Kenneth D., 1988. "The insensitivity of consumption to news about income," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 17-33, January.
    3. Nelson, Charles R. & Plosser, Charles I., 1982. "Trends and random walks in macroeconmic time series : Some evidence and implications," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 139-162.
    4. Christiano, Lawrence J, 1987. "Is Consumption Insufficiently Sensitive to Innovations in Income?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(2), pages 337-41, May.
    5. Campbell, John Y & Mankiw, N Gregory, 1990. "Permanent Income, Current Income, and Consumption," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(3), pages 265-79, July.
    6. 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 971-87, December.
    7. Campbell, John Y & Mankiw, N Gregory, 1987. "Are Output Fluctuations Transitory?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 857-80, November.
    8. John Y. Campbell, 1986. "Does Saving Anticipate Declining Labor Income? An Alternative Test of the Permanent Income Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 1805, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Christiano, Lawrence J & Eichenbaum, Martin & Marshall, David, 1991. "The Permanent Income Hypothesis Revisited," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(2), pages 397-423, March.
    10. Hayashi, Fumio, 1982. "The Permanent Income Hypothesis: Estimation and Testing by Instrumental Variables," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(5), pages 895-916, October.
    11. Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas J. Sargent, 1981. "Exact linear rational expectations models: specification and estimation," Staff Report 71, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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