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Why Do the Rich Save So Much?

  • Christopher D. Carroll

This paper considers several alternative explanations for the fact that households with higher levels of lifetime income ( the rich') have higher lifetime saving rates (Dynan, Skinner, and Zeldes (1996); Lillard and Karoly (1997)). The paper argues that the saving behavior of the richest households cannot be explained by models in which the only purpose of wealth accumulation is to finance future consumption, either their own or that of heirs. The paper concludes that the simplest model that explains the relevant facts is one in which either consumers regard the accumulation of wealth as an end in itself, or unspent wealth yields a flow of services (such as power or social status) which have the same practical effect on behavior as if wealth were intrinsically desirable.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6549.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6549.

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Date of creation: May 1998
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Publication status: published as Slemrod, J. (ed.) Does Atlas Shrug? The Economic Consequences of Taxing the Rich. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6549
Note: ME
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  1. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-43, June.
  2. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1994. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," CRSP working papers 412, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  3. Jody Overland & Christopher D. Carroll & David N. Weil, 2000. "Saving and Growth with Habit Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 341-355, June.
  4. Andrew B. Abel, . "Asset Prices Under Habit Formation and Catching Up With the Jones," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 1-90, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  5. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  6. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 1994. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," NBER Working Papers 4795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
  8. Bernheim, B Douglas & Bagwell, Kyle, 1988. "Is Everything Neutral?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 308-38, April.
  9. Wilhelm, M.O., 1990. "Bequest Behavior And The Effect Of Heirs' Earnings: Testing The Altruistic Model Of Bequests," Papers 9-90-12, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
  10. Heng-fu Zou, 1995. "'The spirit of capitalism' and long-run growth," CEMA Working Papers 94, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  11. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  12. Gourinchas, P.O. & Parker, J.A., 1997. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Working papers 9722, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  13. Karen E. Dynan & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 2000. "Do the rich save more?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-52, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. Auten, Gerald & Joulfaian, David, 1996. "Charitable contributions and intergenerational transfers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(1), pages 55-68, January.
  15. Gurdip S. Bakshi & Zhiwu Chen, 1996. "The Spirit of Capitalism and Stock-Market Prices," CEMA Working Papers 511, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
  16. Michael D. Hurd, 1986. "Savings and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 1826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Modigliani, Franco, 1986. "Life Cycle, Individual Thrift, and the Wealth of Nations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 297-313, June.
  18. Hubbard, R. Glenn & Skinner, Jonathan & Zeldes, Stephen P., 1994. "The importance of precautionary motives in explaining individual and aggregate saving," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-125, June.
  19. 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.
  20. Altonji, Joseph G & Hayashi, Fumio & Kotlikoff, Laurence J, 1992. "Is the Extended Family Altruistically Linked? Direct Tests Using Micro Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1177-98, December.
  21. Menchik, Paul L & David, Martin, 1983. "Income Distribution, Lifetime Savings, and Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 672-90, September.
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