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Consumption Dynamics During the Great Recession

Author

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  • Joseph Vavra

    (University of Chicago)

  • David Berger

    (Yale University)

Abstract

Business cycle models typically abstract from the distinction between durable and non-durable consumption. However, in the 2007 recession, durable expenditures fell by three times as much as GDP while non-durable expenditures fell by slightly less than GDP. We show that simple extensions of business cycle models (both with and without complete markets) that assume frictionless durable adjustment are no more successful at matching the behavior of consumption, as they imply a decline in durable expenditures that is too large and a decline in non-durable expenditures that is too small, relative to the recession. Motivated by micro evidence, we introduce fixed costs of durable adjustment into the incomplete markets model and show that the model is able to match the behavior of consumption in the most recent recession. Fixed costs dampen the volatility of durable expenditures and amplify the volatility of non-durable expenditures, as a large fraction of households hold wealth in illiquid durables. In addition, the model implies non-linear dynamics that are in line with time-series data: durable expenditures respond more strongly to shocks during booms than during recessions. Finally, we provide additional evidence that supports our model: using micro panel data we show that households with a large fraction of wealth in durables are less able to insure against income shocks.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph Vavra & David Berger, 2012. "Consumption Dynamics During the Great Recession," 2012 Meeting Papers 109, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:109
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Silvana Tenreyro & Gregory Thwaites, 2016. "Pushing on a String: US Monetary Policy Is Less Powerful in Recessions," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 43-74, October.
    2. Shoag, Daniel & Veuger, Stan, 2016. "Uncertainty and the geography of the great recession," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 84-93.
    3. Alisdair McKay, "undated". "Idiosyncratic risk, insurance, and aggregate consumption dynamics: a likelihood perspective," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 2013-013, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    4. Domenico Ferraro, 2014. "The Asymmetric Cyclical Behavior of the U.S. Labor Market," 2014 Meeting Papers 1104, Society for Economic Dynamics.

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