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Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001

  • David S. Johnson

    (Division of Price and Index Number Research, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Jonathan A. Parker

    (Princeton University)

  • Nicholas S. Souleles

    (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)

Under the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, most U.S. taxpayers received a tax rebate between July and September, 2001. The week in which the rebate was mailed was based on the second-to-last digit of the taxpayer's Social Security number, a digit that is effectively randomly assigned. Using special questions about the rebates added to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, we exploit this historically unique experiment to measure the change in consumption expenditures caused by receipt of the rebate and to test the Permanent Income Hypothesis and related models. We find that households spent about 20-40 percent of their rebates on non-durable goods during the three-month period in which their rebates were received, and roughly another third of their rebates during the subsequent three-month period. The implied effects on aggregate consumption demand are significant. The estimated responses are largest for households with relatively low liquid wealth and low income, consistent with liquidity constraints.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics. in its series Working Papers with number 136.

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Date of creation: Aug 2004
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Handle: RePEc:pri:wwseco:dp231
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  1. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2003. ""3rd of tha Month": Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 406-422, March.
  2. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2007. "The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates -- Evidence from Consumer Credit Data," NBER Working Papers 13694, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  19. repec:rus:hseeco:95340 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. Chang-Tai Hsieh, 2003. "Do Consumers React to Anticipated Income Changes? Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 397-405, March.
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  28. Slemrod, Joel, et al, 1997. "April 15 Syndrome," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 35(4), pages 695-709, October.
  29. 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.
  30. Christopher D. Carroll, 1992. "The Buffer-Stock Theory of Saving: Some Macroeconomic Evidence," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(2), pages 61-156.
  31. George-Marios Angeletos, 2001. "The Hyberbolic Consumption Model: Calibration, Simulation, and Empirical Evaluation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 47-68, Summer.
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