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Aggregate Consumption and Debt Accumulation: An Empirical Examination of US Household Behavior

Author

Listed:
  • Yun Kim

    () (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

  • Mark Setterfield

    () (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

  • Yuan Mei

    () (Department of Economics, Trinity College)

Abstract

The outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008 witnessed a marked contraction in US consumption spending that had hitherto been boosted by historically high levels of household debt-financing. These events question the validity of conventional models of consumption based on the life-cycle hypothesis, with its benign view of debt as a neutral instrument of optimal intertemporal expenditure smoothing. This paper develops an alternative account of consumption spending based on the Keynesian relative income hypothesis, which claims that current income, its distribution, household borrowing, and household indebtedness all affect current consumption. The paper then provides an empirical investigation of US consumption spending since the 1960s. The results of this inquiry are not compatible with the life-cycle hypothesis, but are congruent with our alternative Keynesian theory of consumption based on the relative income hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

  • Yun Kim & Mark Setterfield & Yuan Mei, 2012. "Aggregate Consumption and Debt Accumulation: An Empirical Examination of US Household Behavior," Working Papers 1204, Trinity College, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:tri:wpaper:1204
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Detzer, Daniel, 2016. "Financialisation, debt and inequality: Scenarios based on a stock flow consistent model," IPE Working Papers 64/2016, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
    2. Daniel Detzer, 2017. "Financialisation, Debt and Inequality: Export-led Mercantilist and Debt-led Private Demand Boom Economies in a Stock-flow consistent Model," Working Papers 2016-03, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Economia e Giurisprudenza.
    3. Robert A. Blecker, 2016. "Wage-led versus profit-led demand regimes: the long and the short of it," Review of Keynesian Economics, Edward Elgar Publishing, vol. 4(4), pages 373-390, October.
    4. Glennie Lauren Moore & Engelbert Stockhammer, 2018. "The drivers of household indebtedness re-considered: an empirical evaluation of competing arguments on the macroeconomic determinants of household indebtedness in OECD countries," Working Papers PKWP1803, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group (PKSG).
    5. Engelbert Stockhammer & Joel Rabinovich & Niall Reddy, 2018. "Distribution, wealth and demand regimes in historical perspective," FMM Working Paper 14-2018, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    6. Stockhammer, Engelbert & Wildauer, Rafael, 2017. "Expenditure cascades, low interest rates or property booms? Determinants of household debt in OECD countries," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 18276, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.
    7. Prante, Franz J., 2017. "Macroeconomic effects of personal and functional income inequality: Theory and empirical evidence for the US and Germany," IPE Working Papers 83/2017, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
    8. Engelbert Stockhammer & Joel Rabinovich & Niall Reddy, 2018. "Distribution, wealth and demand regimes in historical perspective. USA, UK, France and Germany, 1855-2010," Working Papers PKWP1805, Post Keynesian Economics Study Group (PKSG).
    9. Stockhammer, Engelbert & Rabinovich, Joel & Reddy, Niall, 2017. "Distribution, wealth and demand regimes in historical perspective. USA, UK, France and Germany, 1855-2010," Economics Discussion Papers 2017-5, School of Economics, Kingston University London.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption; household borrowing; household debt; life cycle hypothesis; relative income hypothesis;

    JEL classification:

    • E12 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Keynes; Keynesian; Post-Keynesian
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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