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Deconstructing Lifecycle Expenditure

  • Erik Hurst

    (University of Chicago GSB)

  • Mark Aguiar

    (Univerity of Rochester)

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    In this paper we revisit two well-known facts regarding lifecycle expenditures. The first is the familiar "hump" shaped lifecycle profile of nondurable expenditures. We document that the behavior of total nondurables masks surprising heterogeneity in the lifecycle profile of individual sub-components. We find, for example, that while food expenditures decline after middle age, expenditures on entertainment continue to increase throughout the lifecycle. These patterns pose a challenge to familiar lifecycle models that emphasize inter-temporal substitution or movements in income, including standard models of precautionary savings, myopia, and limited commitment. Secondly, we document that the increase in the cross-sectional dispersion of expenditure over the lifecycle is not greater for luxuries. In particular, the dispersion in entertainment expenditure declines relative to food expenditures as households become older, casting further doubt on theories that emphasize (exclusively) shocks to permanent income. We propose and test a Beckerian model that emphasizes intra-temporal substitution between time and expenditures as the opportunity cost of time varies over the lifecycle. We find this alternative model successfully explains the joint behavior of food and entertainment expenditures in the latter half of the lifecycle. The model, however, is less successful in explaining expenditure patterns during the early half of the lifecycle.

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    File URL: https://www.economicdynamics.org/meetpapers/2008/paper_771.pdf
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    Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2008 Meeting Papers with number 771.

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    Date of creation: 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:red:sed008:771
    Contact details of provider: Postal: Society for Economic Dynamics Christian Zimmermann Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis PO Box 442 St. Louis MO 63166-0442 USA
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    1. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-67, June.
    2. 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.
    3. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "A Theory of the Allocation of Time and Goods Over the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters, in: The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle, pages 1-45 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. 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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    7. John Laitner & Dan Silverman, 2005. "Estimating Life—Cycle Parameters from Consumption Behavior at Retirement”," Working Papers wp099, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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    9. Thurow, Lester C, 1969. "The Optimum Lifetime Distribution of Consumption Expenditures," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(3), pages 324-30, June.
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    12. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2005. "Two Views of Inequality Over the Life Cycle," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 3(2-3), pages 765-775, 04/05.
    13. Gilbert Ghez & Gary S. Becker, 1975. "The Allocation of Time and Goods over the Life Cycle," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number ghez75-1.
    14. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2004. "Consumption vs. Expenditure," NBER Working Papers 10307, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
    16. Milton Friedman, 1957. "Introduction to "A Theory of the Consumption Function"," NBER Chapters, in: A Theory of the Consumption Function, pages 1-6 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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