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Has Consumption Inequality Mirrored Income Inequality?

  • Mark Bils

    (University of Rochester)

  • Mark Aguiar

    (University of Rochester)

last 30 years has been mirrored by consumption inequality. We do so by constructing two alternative measures of consumption expenditure, using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE). We first use reports of active savings and after tax income to construct the measure of consumption implied by the budget constraint. We find that the consumption inequality implied by savings behavior tracks income inequality closely between 1980 and 2007. Second, we use a demand system to correct for systematic measurement error in the CE's expenditure data. Specifically, we consider trends in the relative expenditure of high income and low income households for different goods with different income elasticities. Our estimation exploits the difference in the growth rate of luxury consumption inequality versus necessity consumption inequality. This ``double-differencing,'' which we implement in a a regression framework, corrects for mis-measurement that can systematically vary over time by good and income group. This second exercise also indicates that consumption inequality has closely tracked income inequality over the period 1980-2007. Both of our measures show a significantly greater increase in consumption inequality than what is obtained from the CE's total household expenditure data directly.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2010 Meeting Papers with number 1334.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed010:1334
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
Fax: 1-314-444-8731
Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/society.htm
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  1. Fatih Guvenen, 2006. "Learning your earning: are labor income shocks really very persistent?," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 145, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  2. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1997. "Consumption, inequality and income uncertainty," IFS Working Papers W97/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  3. Bruce D. Meyer & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "Five Decades of Consumption and Income Poverty," NBER Working Papers 14827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L, 2004. "Two Views of Inequality Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 4728, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Mark Huggett & Gustavo Ventura & Amir Yaron, 2007. "Sources of Lifetime Inequality," NBER Working Papers 13224, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States, 1967-2006," NBER Working Papers 15483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
  9. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri & Luigi Pistaferri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Cross Sectional Facts for Macroeconomists," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 1-14, January.
  10. 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.
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