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Fiscal Policy and MPC Heterogeneity

We use responses to survey questions in the 2010 Italian Survey of Household Income and Wealth that ask consumers how much of an unexpected transitory income change they would consume. We find that the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) is 48 percent on average, and that there is substantial heterogeneity in the distribution. We find that households with low cash-on-hand exhibit a much lower MPC than affluent households, which is in agreement with models with precautionary savings where income risk plays an important role. The results have important implications for the evaluation of fiscal policy, and for predicting household responses to tax reforms and redistributive policies. In particular, we find that a debt-financed increase in transfers of 1 percent of national disposable income targeted to the bottom decile of the cash-on-hand distribution would increase aggregate consumption by 0.82 percent. Furthermore, we find that redistributing 1% of national disposable from the top to the bottom decile of the income distribution would boost aggregate consumption by 0.1%.

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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 325.

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Date of creation: 15 Nov 2012
Date of revision: 18 Dec 2012
Publication status: Published in American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 2014, 6(4), 107-36
Handle: RePEc:sef:csefwp:325
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  1. Tullio Jappelli & Luigi Pistaferri, 1999. "Intertemporal Choice and Consumption Mobility," CSEF Working Papers 23, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  2. Cagetti, Marco, 2003. "Wealth Accumulation over the Life Cycle and Precautionary Savings," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 21(3), pages 339-53, July.
  3. Jonathan A. Parker, 2011. "Consumer Spending and the Economic Stimulus Payments of 2008," 2011 Meeting Papers 254, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Shapiro, Matthew D & Slemrod, Joel, 1995. "Consumer Response to the Timing of Income: Evidence from a Change in Tax Withholding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 274-83, March.
  5. David S. Johnson & Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2004. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," NBER Working Papers 10784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Sumit Agarwal & Chunlin Liu & Nicholas Souleles, 2007. "The reaction of consumer spending and debt to tax rebates; evidence from consumer credit data," Working Papers 07-34, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  7. Atif Mian & Amir Sufi, 2010. "Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007–09," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 58(1), pages 74-117, August.
  8. Atif R. Mian & Amir Sufi, 2010. "Household Leverage and the Recession of 2007 to 2009," NBER Working Papers 15896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Melvin Stephens, 2001. "The Long-Run Consumption Effects Of Earnings Shocks," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(1), pages 28-36, February.
  10. Claudia R. Sahm & Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel B. Slemrod, 2009. "Household Response to the 2008 Tax Rebate: Survey Evidence and Aggregate Implications," NBER Working Papers 15421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Jonathan A. Parker, 1999. "The Reaction of Household Consumption to Predictable Changes in Social Security Taxes," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 959-973, September.
  12. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-84, August.
  13. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2004. "Consumption inequality and partial insurance," IFS Working Papers W04/28, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  14. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2011. "Financial Literacy around the World: An Overview," NBER Working Papers 17107, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Souleles, Nicholas S., 2002. "Consumer response to the Reagan tax cuts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 99-120, July.
  16. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
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