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Life-Cycle Consumption: Can Single Agent Models Get it Right?

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  • Bick, Alexander
  • Choi, Sekyu

Abstract

In the quantitative macro literature, single agent models are heavily used to explain "per-adult equivalent" household data. In this paper, we study differences between consumption predictions from a single agent model and "adult equivalent" consumption predictions from a model where household size evolves deterministically over the life-cycle and affects individual preferences for consumption. Using a theoretical model we prove that, under mild conditions, these predictions are different. In particular, the single household model cannot explain patterns in life-cycle consumption profiles (the so called 'humps'), nor cross sectional inequality in consumption originating from the second model, even after controlling for household size using equivalence scales. Through a quantitative exercise, we then document that differences in predictions can be substantial: total (per-adult equivalent) consumption over the life-cycle can be up to 5% different, depending on the specific parameterization. We find a similar number for total cross sectional inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Bick, Alexander & Choi, Sekyu, 2011. "Life-Cycle Consumption: Can Single Agent Models Get it Right?," MPRA Paper 29017, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:29017
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/29433/1/MPRA_paper_29433.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Tony Smith & M. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "Inferring Labor Income Risk from Economic Choices: An Indirect Inference Approach," 2007 Meeting Papers 1024, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Attanasio, Orazio P, et al, 1999. "Humps and Bumps in Lifetime Consumption," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 17(1), pages 22-35, January.
    3. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
    4. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Christopher I. & Yaron, Amir, 2004. "Consumption and risk sharing over the life cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3), pages 609-633, April.
    5. Karen Kopecky & Richard Suen, 2010. "Finite State Markov-chain Approximations to Highly Persistent Processes," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(3), pages 701-714, July.
    6. Greg Kaplan & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "How Much Consumption Insurance beyond Self-Insurance?," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 53-87, October.
    7. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
    8. Lazear, Edward P & Michael, Robert T, 1980. "Family Size and the Distribution of Real Per Capita Income," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(1), pages 91-107, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption; Life-Cycle Models; Households;

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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