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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Tullio Jappelli & Luigi Pistaferri, 1999. "Consumption Insurance or Consumption Mobility?," CSEF Working Papers 19, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:19

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Andrea Brandolini, 1999. "The Distribution of Personal Income in Post-War Italy: Source Description, Data Quality, and the Time Pattern of Income Inequality," Giornale degli Economisti, GDE (Giornale degli Economisti e Annali di Economia), Bocconi University, vol. 58(2), pages 183-239, September.
    2. Abhijit V. Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1991. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 211-235.
    3. Attanasio, Orazio & Davis, Steven J, 1996. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1227-1262, December.
    4. Townsend, Robert M, 1994. "Risk and Insurance in Village India," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(3), pages 539-591, May.
    5. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-467, June.
    6. Schluter, Christian, 1998. "Statistical inference with mobility indices," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 157-162, May.
    7. Hayashi, Fumio & Altonji, Joseph & Kotlikoff, Laurence, 1996. "Risk-Sharing between and within Families," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(2), pages 261-294, March.
    8. Cochrane, John H, 1991. "A Simple Test of Consumption Insurance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 957-976, October.
    9. Shorrocks, A F, 1978. "The Measurement of Mobility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(5), pages 1013-1024, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Koeniger, Winfried, 2001. "Labor and Financial Market Interactions: The Case of Labor Income Risk and Car Insurance in the UK 1969-95," IZA Discussion Papers 240, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Consumption insurance; mobility;

    JEL classification:

    • D52 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Incomplete Markets
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General

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