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Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey

  • Orazio P. Attanasio
  • Guglielmo Weber

In this paper we show that some of the predictions of models of consumer intertemporal optimization are not inconsistent with the patterns of non-durable expenditure observed in US household-level data. Our results and our approach are new in several respects. First, we use the only US micro data set which has direct and complete information on household consumption. The microeconomic data sets used in most of the consumption literature so far contained either very limited information on consumption (like the PSID) or none at all, in which case consumption had to be obtained indirectly from income and changes in assets. Second, we propose a flexible and novel specification of preferences which is easily estimable and allows a general treatment jof multiple commodities. We show that aggregation over commodities can be important, both theoretically and in practice. Third, we present empirical results that show that it is possible to find a reasonably simple specification of preferences, which controls for the effects of changes in demographics and labor supply behavior over the life cycle and which is not rejected by the available data. On our preferred specification, we obtain sharp estimates of key behavioral parameters (including the elasticity of intertemporal substitution) and no rejections of theoretical restrictions. Our results contrast sharply with most of the previous evidence, which has typically been interpreted as rejection of the theory. We show that previous rejections can be explained by the simplifying assumptions made to derive empirically tractable equations. We also show that results obtained using food consumption or aggregate data can be extremely misleading.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4795.

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Date of creation: Jul 1994
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Publication status: published as Journal of Political Economy, 1992.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4795
Note: EFG
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Orazio P. Attanasio, 1998. "Cohort Analysis of Saving Behavior by U.S. Households," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(3), pages 575-609.
  2. Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 16-88, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  3. Deaton, Angus S & Muellbauer, John, 1980. "An Almost Ideal Demand System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(3), pages 312-26, June.
  4. 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.
  5. Hayashi, Fumio & Sims, Christopher A, 1983. "Nearly Efficient Estimation of Time Series Models with Predetermined, but Not Exogenous, Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(3), pages 783-98, May.
  6. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 339-57, April.
  7. Orazio Attanasio, 1993. "A cohort analysis of saving behaviour by US households," IFS Working Papers W93/04, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  8. Attanasio, Orazio P & Browning, Martin, 1995. "Consumption over the Life Cycle and over the Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1118-37, December.
  9. Hall, Robert E & Mishkin, Frederic S, 1982. "The Sensitivity of Consumption to Transitory Income: Estimates from Panel Data on Households," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(2), pages 461-81, March.
  10. 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.
  11. Hansen, Lars Peter & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1982. "Generalized Instrumental Variables Estimation of Nonlinear Rational Expectations Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(5), pages 1269-86, September.
  12. Newey, Whitney K & West, Kenneth D, 1987. "A Simple, Positive Semi-definite, Heteroskedasticity and Autocorrelation Consistent Covariance Matrix," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 703-08, May.
  13. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
  14. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-76, October.
  15. Mace, Barbara J, 1991. "Full Insurance in the Presence of Aggregate Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 928-56, October.
  16. Blundell, R. & Browning, M. & Meghir, C., 1989. "A Microeconometric Model Of Intertemporal Substitution And Consumer Demand," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 324, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  17. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "Consumption Growth, the Interest Rate and Aggregation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 631-49, July.
  18. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Seasonal Fluctuations and the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Model of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(6), pages 1258-79, December.
  19. Moffitt, Robert, 1993. "Identification and estimation of dynamic models with a time series of repeated cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1-2), pages 99-123, September.
  20. Browning, Martin & Deaton, Angus & Irish, Margaret, 1985. "A Profitable Approach to Labor Supply and Commodity Demands over the Life-Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(3), pages 503-43, May.
  21. Attanasio, Orazio & Davis, Steven J, 1996. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1227-62, December.
  22. Runkle, David E., 1991. "Liquidity constraints and the permanent-income hypothesis : Evidence from panel data," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 73-98, February.
  23. Orazio P. Attanasio & Martin Browning, 1994. "Testing the life cycle model consumption: what can we learn from micro and macro data?," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, vol. 18(3), pages 433-463, September.
  24. B. Douglas Bernheim & John B. Shoven, 1991. "National Saving and Economic Performance," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bern91-2, August.
  25. Keane, Michael P & Runkle, David E, 1992. "On the Estimation of Panel-Data Models with Serial Correlation When Instruments Are Not Strictly Exogenous," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 10(1), pages 1-9, January.
  26. Blundell, Richard & Pashardes, Panos & Weber, Guglielmo, 1993. "What Do We Learn About Consumer Demand Patterns from Micro Data?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 570-97, June.
  27. Fumio Hayashi, 1985. "Tests for Liquidity Constraints: A Critical Survey," NBER Working Papers 1720, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. repec:fth:harver:1466 is not listed on IDEAS
  29. Christopher D. Carroll & Lawrence H. Summers, 1991. "Consumption Growth Parallels Income Growth: Some New Evidence," NBER Chapters, in: National Saving and Economic Performance, pages 305-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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