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'3rd of tha Month': Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?

  • Melvin Stephens Jr.

This paper examines the response of consumption expenditures to the monthly receipt of Social Security checks. Since the amount and arrival date of these checks are known to the recipients, the basic Life-Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis (LCPIH) predicts that consumption should not respond to the receipt of these checks. Using daily diary data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey, this paper finds evidence that both the dollar amount and probability of expenditures increase immediately following the receipt of this check. Most relevant to testing the LCPIH, categories of instantaneous consumption expenditure such as food away from home increase on the check arrival date. The response is found primarily amongst households for whom Social Security is the primary source of income. However, the magnitude of the estimated responses are relatively small and do not suggest that the utility losses are large from this non-smoothing behavior.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9135.

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Date of creation: Aug 2002
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Publication status: published as Stephens Jr., Melvin. "`3rd of tha Month': Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?" The American Economic Review 93, 1 (March 2003): 406-422.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9135
Note: AG LS PE
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  8. Wilcox, David W, 1989. "Social Security Benefits, Consumption Expenditure, and the Life Cycle Hypothesis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(2), pages 288-304, April.
  9. Judith A. Chevalier & Anil K. Kashyap & Peter E. Rossi, 2003. "Why Don't Prices Rise During Periods of Peak Demand? Evidence from Scanner Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 15-37, March.
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  12. 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.
  13. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2002. "'3rd of tha Month': Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?," NBER Working Papers 9135, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
  15. Heckman, James J & Macurdy, Thomas E, 1980. "A Life Cycle Model of Female Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(1), pages 47-74, January.
  16. Paxson, C.H., 1991. "Consumption And Income Seasonality In Thailand," Papers 150, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  17. Charles Brown & Robert Moffitt, 1983. "The Effect of Ignoring Heteroscedasticity on Estimates of the Tobit Model," NBER Technical Working Papers 0027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  20. Warner, Elizabeth J & Barsky, Robert B, 1995. "The Timing and Magnitude of Retail Store Markdowns: Evidence from Weekends and Holidays," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 321-52, May.
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