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Consumption Over the Life Cycle

  • Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas
  • Jonathan A. Parker

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7271.

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Date of creation: Jul 1999
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Publication status: published as Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier and Jonathan A. Parker. "Consumption Over The Life Cycle," Econometrica, 2002, v70(1,Jan), 47-89.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7271
Note: IFM EFG
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  1. Darrell Duffie & Kenneth J. Singleton, 1990. "Simulated Moments Estimation of Markov Models of Asset Prices," NBER Technical Working Papers 0087, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. R. Glenn Hubbard & Jonathan Skinner & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1994. "Precautionary Saving and Social Insurance," NBER Working Papers 4884, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. 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.
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  12. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  13. John Y. Campbell & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1989. "Consumption, Income and Interest Rates: Reinterpreting the Time Series Evidence," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 185-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Clarida, Richard H, 1991. "Aggregate Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(3), pages 851-67, August.
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  17. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1980. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," NBER Working Papers 0445, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Stephen Zeldes, . "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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  27. repec:fth:harver:1435 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. Robert E. Hall & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1980. "The Sensitivity of Consumption to Transitory Income: Estimates from Panel Data on Households," NBER Working Papers 0505, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Deaton, Angus, 1985. "Panel data from time series of cross-sections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 109-126.
  30. Caballero, Ricardo J., 1990. "Consumption puzzles and precautionary savings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 113-136, January.
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  1. Quantitative Macroeconomics and Real Business Cycles (QM&RBC)

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