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Wealth Shocks, Unemployment Shocks and Consumption in the Wake of the Great Recession

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Abstract

We use data from the 2009 Internet Survey of the Health and Retirement Study to examine the consumption impact of wealth shocks and unemployment during the Great Recession in the US. We find that many households experienced large capital losses in housing and in their financial portfolios, and that a non-trivial fraction of respondents have lost their job. As a consequence of these shocks, many households reduced substantially their expenditures. We estimate that the marginal propensities to consume with respect to housing and financial wealth are 1 and 3.3 percentage points, respectively. In addition, those who became unemployed reduced spending by 10 percent. We also distinguish the effect of perceived transitory and permanent wealth shocks, splitting the sample between households who think that the stock market is likely to recover in a year’s time, and those who don’t. In line with the predictions of standard models of intertemporal choice, we find that the latter group adjusted much more than the former its spending in response to financial wealth shocks.

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  • Dimitrios Christelis & Dimitris Georgarakos & Tullio Jappelli, 2011. "Wealth Shocks, Unemployment Shocks and Consumption in the Wake of the Great Recession," CSEF Working Papers 279, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 19 Nov 2014.
  • Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:279
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    Keywords

    Marginal Propensity to Consume; Wealth Shocks; Unemployment;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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