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Consumer Spending and the Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008

  • Jonathan A. Parker

    (Northwestern University)

We measure the response of household spending to the economic stimulus payments (ESPs) disbursed in mid-2008, using special questions added to the Consumer Expenditure Survey and variation arising from the randomized timing of when the payments were disbursed. We find that, on average, households spent about 12-30% (depending on the specification) of their stimulus payments on non-durable expenditures during the three-month period in which the payments were received. Further, there was also a substantial and significant increase in spending on durable goods, in particular vehicles, bringing the average total spending response to about 50-90% of the payments. Relative to research on the 2001 tax rebates, these spending responses are estimated with greater precision using the randomized timing variation. The estimated responses are substantial and significant for older, lower-income, and home-owning households. We further extend the literature in two ways. First, we find little evidence that the propensity to spend varies with the method of disbursement (paper check versus electronic transfer). Second, we evaluate a complementary methodology for quantifying the impact of tax cuts, which asks consumers to self-report whether they spent their tax cuts. The response of spending to the ESPs is indeed largest for self-reported spenders. However, self-reported savers also spent a significant fraction of the payments.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2011 Meeting Papers with number 254.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed011:254
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