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The Absentminded Consumer

Author

Listed:
  • John Leahy
  • Andrew Caplin

Abstract

We develop a life-cycle model that captures "absent-mindedness": the fact that many households have only the sketchiest understanding of their pattern of spending. The model generates precautionary spending, whereby absent-minded agents tend to consume more than attentive ones. The model also predicts fluctuations over time in the level of attention, and thereby sheds new light on the sharp reduction in consumption both at retirement, and in cyclical downturns. Finally, the model suggests strong analogies between control problems of the sort encountered by our absent-minded consumer and the more familiar problems of self control. We test the model on data collected from a new survey of TIAA-CREF participants

Suggested Citation

  • John Leahy & Andrew Caplin, 2004. "The Absentminded Consumer," 2004 Meeting Papers 784, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed004:784
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "Asking consumption questions in general purpose surveys," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(491), pages 540-567, November.
    2. Banks, James & Blundell, Richard & Tanner, Sarah, 1998. "Is There a Retirement-Savings Puzzle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 769-788.
    3. Erich Battistin & Raffaele Miniaci & Guglielmo Weber, 2003. "What Do We Learn from Recall Consumption Data?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 38(2).
    4. Steffen Huck & Wieland Müller, 2002. "Absent–Minded Drivers In The Lab: Testing Gilboa'S Model," International Game Theory Review (IGTR), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 4(04), pages 435-448.
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    6. Kimball, Miles S, 1990. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(1), pages 53-73, January.
    7. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2007. "Retirement Consumption: Insights from a Survey," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 265-274, May.
    8. A. Sandmo, 1970. "The Effect of Uncertainty on Saving Decisions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 37(3), pages 353-360.
    9. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2004. "Measuring Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 10514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Erich Battistin, 2002. "Errors in Survey Reports of Consumption Expenditures," 10th International Conference on Panel Data, Berlin, July 5-6, 2002 C4-2, International Conferences on Panel Data.
    11. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    12. Kocherlakota, Narayana R., 1998. "Money Is Memory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 232-251, August.
    13. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation and the Propensity to Plan," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1007-1047.
    14. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    15. James Dow, 1991. "Search Decisions with Limited Memory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 1-14.
    16. B. Douglas Bernheim & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Weinberg, 2001. "What Accounts for the Variation in Retirement Wealth among U.S. Households?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(4), pages 832-857, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Lola Hernandez & Nicole Jonker & Anneke Kosse, 2014. "Cash versus debit card: the role of budget control," DNB Working Papers 429, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    2. Daniel Levy & Hainpeng (Allan) Chen & Sourav RayAuthor-Name: Mark Bergen, 2004. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment in the Small: An Implication of Rational Inattention," Emory Economics 0408, Department of Economics, Emory University (Atlanta).
    3. Avichai Snir & Daniel Levy, 2011. "Shrinking Goods and Sticky Prices: Theory and Evidence," Working Papers 2011-03, Bar-Ilan University, Department of Economics.
    4. Kevin Huang & Frank Caliendo, 2011. "Rationalizing multiple consumption-saving puzzles in a unified framework," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer;Higher Education Press, vol. 6(3), pages 359-388, September.
    5. Ulf Von Kalckreuth & Tobias Schmidt & Helmut Stix, 2014. "Using Cash to Monitor Liquidity: Implications for Payments, Currency Demand, and Withdrawal Behavior," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 46(8), pages 1753-1786, December.
    6. Daniel Levy & Dongwon Lee & Haipeng (Allan) Chen & Robert J. Kauffman & Mark Bergen, 2011. "Price Points and Price Rigidity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1417-1431, November.
    7. Reis, Ricardo, 2006. "Inattentive consumers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(8), pages 1761-1800, November.
    8. Kevin X.D. Huang & Frank Caliendo, 2007. "Rationalizing Seven Consumption-Saving Puzzles in a Unified Framework," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0716, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
    9. John Ameriks & Andrew Caplin & John Leahy & Tom Tyler, 2004. "Measuring Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 10514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Huffman, David B. & Barenstein, Matias, 2004. "Riches to Rags Every Month? The Fall in Consumption Expenditures Between Paydays," IZA Discussion Papers 1430, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "Baby Boomer retirement security: The roles of planning, financial literacy, and housing wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 205-224, January.
    12. Ehrmann, Michael, 2006. "Rational inattention, inflation developments and perceptions after the euro cash changeover," Working Paper Series 588, European Central Bank.
    13. Yamamoto, Yoshihiro & Suzuki, Akihiko & Fuwa, Yasuhiro & Sato, Tomohiro, 2008. "Decision-making in electrical appliance use in the home," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 1679-1686, May.
    14. Annamarie Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," Working Papers wp108, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    15. Sarkar, Asani & Zhang, Lingjia, 2009. "Time varying consumption covariance and dynamics of the equity premium: Evidence from the G7 countries," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 613-631, September.
    16. Sumit Agarwal & John C Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2008. "Learning in the Credit Card Market," Levine's Working Paper Archive 122247000000002028, David K. Levine.
    17. repec:rim:rimwps:04-07 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Michael Ehrmann, 2011. "Inflation Developments and Perceptions after the Euro Cash Changeover," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(1), pages 33-58, February.
    19. Ni, Shawn & Seol, Youn, 2014. "New evidence on excess sensitivity of household consumption," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 80-94.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption; Attention; Life-cycle;

    JEL classification:

    • 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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