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Consumption Insurance or Consumption Mobility?

The theory of full consumption insurance posits that households are insulated from all idiosyncratic shocks so that the ratio of the marginal utilities of consumption of any two households is constant over time. Consumption insurance therefore implies absence of consumption mobility between any two time periods. This implication requires knowledge of the evolution of the entire consumption distribution, not just its mean as in standard tests of complete markets. We test this unexplored prediction of the theory using a panel drawn from the Bank of Italy Survey of Household Income and Wealth. We design an appropriate non-parametric test and find substantial mobility of consumption even controlling for possible preference shifts and measurement error in consumption. The findings strongly reject the theory of full consumption insurance.

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Paper provided by Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy in its series CSEF Working Papers with number 19.

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Date of creation: 01 Apr 1999
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Publication status: Published in Journal of the European Economic Association, 2006, vol. 4, pages 75-115
Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:19
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  1. Robert M. Townsend, . "Risk and Insurance in Village India," University of Chicago - Population Research Center 91-3a, Chicago - Population Research Center.
  2. Orazio Attanasio & Steven J. Davis, 1994. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," NBER Working Papers 4771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Hayashi, Fumio & Altonji, Joseph & Kotlikoff, Laurence, 1996. "Risk-Sharing between and within Families," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 261-94, March.
  4. Brandolini, A., 1999. "The Distribution of Personal Income in Post-War Italy: Source Description, Date Quality, and the Time Pattern of Income Inequality," Papers 350, Banca Italia - Servizio di Studi.
  5. Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1991. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 211-35, April.
  6. Deaton, A. & Paxson, C., 1993. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Papers 168, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  7. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-76, October.
  8. Shorrocks, A F, 1978. "The Measurement of Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(5), pages 1013-24, September.
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