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Consumption Over the Life Cycle

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  • Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas
  • Jonathan A. Parker

Abstract

This paper employs a synthetic cohort technique and Consumer Expenditure Survey data to construct average age-profiles of consumption and income over the working lives of typical households across different education and occupation groups. Using these profiles, we estimate a structural model of optimal life-cycle consumption expenditures in the presence of realistic labor income uncertainty. The model fits the profiles quite well. In addition to providing tight estimates of the discount rate and risk aversion, we find that consumer behavior changes strikingly over the life-cycle. Young consumers behave as buffer-stock agents. Around age 40, the typical household starts accumulating liquid assets for retirement, and its behavior mimics more closely that of a certainty equivalent consumer. This change in behavior is mostly driven by the life-cycle profile of expected income. Our methodology provides a natural decomposition of saving into its precautionary and retirement components.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7271
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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