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Consumption Inequality and Intra-Household Allocations

  • Shannon Seitz
  • Jeremy Lise

The consumption literature uses adult equivalence scales to measure individual level inequality. This practice imposes the assumption that there is no within household inequality. In this paper, we show that ignoring consumption inequality within households produces misleading estimates of inequality along two dimensions. First, the use of adult equivalence scales underestimates the level of cross sectional consumption inequality by 30 percent, as large differences in the earnings of husbands and wives translate into large differences in consumption allocations within households. Second, the rise in inequality since the 1970s is overstated by almost two-thirds: within household inequality declined over time as the share of income provided by wives increased. Our findings also indicate that increases in marital sorting on wages and hours worked can simultaneously explain virtually all of the decline in within household inequality and a substantial fraction of the rise in between household inequality for one and two adult households in the UK since the 1970s.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2005 Meeting Papers with number 448.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed005:448
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  1. Richard Blundell & André Chiappori & Thierry Magnac & Costas Meghir, 1998. "Collective labour supply: heterogeneity and non-participation," IFS Working Papers W98/20, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  2. Martin Browning & P.A. Chiappori, 1996. "Efficient Intra-Household Allocations - A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," Discussion Papers 96-10, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  3. Browning, M. & Bourguignon, F. & Chiappori, P.A. & Lechene, V., 1992. "Incomes and Outcomes: A structural Model of Intra-Household Allocation," DELTA Working Papers 92-23, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  4. Fernández, Raquel & Rogerson, Richard, 2000. "Sorting and Long-Run Inequality," CEPR Discussion Papers 2352, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  6. Pierre-André Chiappori & Bernard Fortin & Guy Lacroix, 2001. "Marriage Market, Divorce Legislation and Household Labor Supply," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-16, CIRANO.
  7. Olivier Donni, 2007. "Collective female labour supply: theory and application," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(516), pages 94-119, 01.
  8. Erich Battistin, 2003. "Errors in survey reports of consumption expenditures," IFS Working Papers W03/07, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  9. Frederic Vermeulen, 2000. "Collective household models: principles and main results," Public Economics Working Paper Series ces0028, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centrum voor Economische Studiën, Working Group Public Economics.
  10. Martin Browning & Pierre-André Chiappori & Arthur Lewbel, 2013. "Estimating Consumption Economies of Scale, Adult Equivalence Scales, and Household Bargaining Power," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 80(4), pages 1267-1303.
  11. Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1990. "How Serious Is the Neglect of Intra-Household Inequality?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 866-81, September.
  12. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
  13. Haddad, Lawrence & Kanbur, Ravi, 1990. "Are better off households more unequal or less unequal ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 373, The World Bank.
  14. Pierre-André Chiappori & Richard Blundell & Costas Meghir, 2002. "Collective labour supply with children," IFS Working Papers W02/08, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  15. Garry Barrett & Thomas Crossley & Christopher Worswick, 1999. "Consumption and Income Inequality in Australia," CEPR Discussion Papers 404, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  16. Shannon N. Seitz, 2002. "Accounting for Racial Differences in Marriage and Employment," Working Papers 1009, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  17. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2002. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory," NBER Working Papers 9202, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Thomas F. Crossley & Krishna Pendakur, 2002. "Consumption Inequality," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-09, McMaster University.
  19. Pendakur, Krishna, 1998. "Changes in Canadian Family Income and Family Consumption Inequality between 1978 and 1992," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 44(2), pages 259-83, June.
  20. Jay H. Hong & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 2012. "Life Insurance and Household Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3701-30, December.
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  22. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre, 1988. "Rational Household Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 63-90, January.
  24. Kenneth Train, 2003. "Discrete Choice Methods with Simulation," Online economics textbooks, SUNY-Oswego, Department of Economics, number emetr2, December.
  25. Manser, Marilyn & Brown, Murray, 1980. "Marriage and Household Decision-Making: A Bargaining Analysis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 21(1), pages 31-44, February.
  26. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1997. "Consumption, inequality and income uncertainty," IFS Working Papers W97/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  27. Shorrocks, Anthony F, 1984. "Inequality Decomposition by Population Subgroups," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(6), pages 1369-85, November.
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