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

  • Bick, Alexander
  • Choi, Sekyu
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    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.

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    File URL: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/29433/1/MPRA_paper_29433.pdf
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    Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 29017.

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    Date of creation: Feb 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:29017
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    1. 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.
    2. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2000. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gourinchas, P.O. & Parker, J.A., 1997. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Working papers 9722, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    4. Orazio P. Attanasio & James Banks & Costas Meghir & Guglielmo Weber, 1995. "Humps and Bumps in Lifetime Consumption," NBER Working Papers 5350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Karen A. Kopecky & Richard M. H. Suen, 2009. "Finite State Markov-Chain Approximations to Highly Persistent Processes," Working Papers 200904, University of California at Riverside, Department of Economics, revised May 2009.
    6. Gouveia, Miguel & Strauss, Robert P., 1994. "Effective Federal Individual Tax Functions: An Exploratory Empirical Analysis," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 47(2), pages 317-39, June.
    7. 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.
    8. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2008. "The Macroeconomic Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States," NBER Working Papers 14052, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Fatih Guvenen & Anthony Smith, 2010. "Inferring Labor Income Risk from Economic Choices: An Indirect Inference Approach," NBER Working Papers 16327, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Luis Cubeddu & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2003. "Families As Shocks," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 671-682, 04/05.
    11. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio & Pistaferri, Luigi & Violante, Giovanni L, 2009. "Cross Sectional Facts for Macroeconomists," CEPR Discussion Papers 7582, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    12. Aiyagari, S.R. & Greenwood, J. & Guner, N., 1999. "On the State of the Union," RCER Working Papers 462, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
    13. Julie A. NELSON, 1993. "Independent of a Base Equivalence Scales Estimation Using United States Micro-Level Data," Annales d'Economie et de Statistique, ENSAE, issue 29, pages 43-63.
    14. 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.
    15. Shintaro Yamaguchi & Claudia Ruiz & Maurizio Mazzocco, 2014. "Labor Supply, Wealth Dynamics and Marriage Decisions," 2014 Meeting Papers 210, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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