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Empirical proxies for the consumption–wealth ratio


  • Karl Whelan
  • Jeremy Rudd


Using a log-linearized approximation to an aggregate budget constraint, it is possible to show that the ratio of consumption to total (human and non-human) wealth summarizes agents' expectations concerning both future labor income and future asset returns. In a series of recent papers, Lettau and Ludvigson construct an empirical analogue to the consumption–wealth ratio by approximating total wealth with a linear combination of labor income and observable non-human wealth. If valid, this framework suggests that consumption, assets, and labor income will be cointegrated. We demonstrate, however, that standard tests fail to reject the hypothesis of no cointegration once one employs measures of consumption, assets, and labor income that are jointly consistent with an underlying budget constraint. We also show that deviations of consumption, assets, and income from an estimated common trend are unable to predict future excess returns on stocks out of sample once theoretically consistent measures are used.

Suggested Citation

  • Karl Whelan & Jeremy Rudd, 2006. "Empirical proxies for the consumption–wealth ratio," Open Access publications 10197/212, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucn:oapubs:10197/212

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lettau, Martin & Ludvigson, Sydney, 2002. "Time-varying risk premia and the cost of capital: An alternative implication of the Q theory of investment," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(1), pages 31-66, January.
    2. John Y. Campbell & Pierre Perron, 1991. "Pitfalls and Opportunities: What Macroeconomists Should Know About Unit Roots," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1991, Volume 6, pages 141-220 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Johansen, Soren & Juselius, Katarina, 1990. "Maximum Likelihood Estimation and Inference on Cointegration--With Applications to the Demand for Money," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 52(2), pages 169-210, May.
    4. Brennan, Michael J. & Xia, Yihong, 2005. "tay's as good as cay," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-14, March.
    5. John Y. Campbell & Samuel B. Thompson, 2005. "Predicting the Equity Premium Out of Sample: Can Anything Beat the Historical Average?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2084, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    6. Hansen, Bruce E., 1992. "Efficient estimation and testing of cointegrating vectors in the presence of deterministic trends," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1-3), pages 87-121.
    7. John Y. Campbell & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1989. "Consumption, Income and Interest Rates: Reinterpreting the Time Series Evidence," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 185-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Palumbo, Michael & Rudd, Jeremy & Whelan, Karl, 2006. "On the Relationships Between Real Consumption, Income, and Wealth," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 24, pages 1-11, January.
    9. repec:fth:harver:1435 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Lettau, Martin & Ludvigson, Sydney C., 2005. "tay's as good as cay: Reply," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 15-22, March.
    11. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson, 2004. "Understanding Trend and Cycle in Asset Values: Reevaluating the Wealth Effect on Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 276-299, March.
    12. Ivo Welch & Amit Goyal, 2008. "A Comprehensive Look at The Empirical Performance of Equity Premium Prediction," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(4), pages 1455-1508, July.
    13. Dale W. Jorgenson & Kevin J. Stiroh, 2000. "Raising the Speed Limit: U.S. Economic Growth in the Information Age," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 31(1), pages 125-236.
    14. Martin Lettau & Sydney Ludvigson, 2001. "Resurrecting the (C)CAPM: A Cross-Sectional Test When Risk Premia Are Time-Varying," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(6), pages 1238-1287, December.
    15. Johansen, Soren, 1991. "Estimation and Hypothesis Testing of Cointegration Vectors in Gaussian Vector Autoregressive Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(6), pages 1551-1580, November.
    16. Johansen, Soren, 1988. "Statistical analysis of cointegration vectors," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 12(2-3), pages 231-254.
    17. MacKinnon, James G & Haug, Alfred A & Michelis, Leo, 1999. "Numerical Distribution Functions of Likelihood Ratio Tests for Cointegration," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(5), pages 563-577, Sept.-Oct.
    18. Wayne E. Ferson & Sergei Sarkissian & Timothy T. Simin, 2003. "Spurious Regressions in Financial Economics?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(4), pages 1393-1414, August.
    19. Campbell, John Y, 1996. "Understanding Risk and Return," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 298-345, April.
    20. Osterwald-Lenum, Michael, 1992. "A Note with Quantiles of the Asymptotic Distribution of the Maximum Likelihood Cointegration Rank Test Statistics," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 54(3), pages 461-472, August.
    21. Campbell, John Y, 1993. "Intertemporal Asset Pricing without Consumption Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 487-512, June.
    22. Johansen, Soren, 1995. "Likelihood-Based Inference in Cointegrated Vector Autoregressive Models," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198774501.
    23. Phillips, Peter C B & Ouliaris, S, 1990. "Asymptotic Properties of Residual Based Tests for Cointegration," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(1), pages 165-193, January.
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    More about this item


    Budget constraint; Return forecastability; Cointegration; Cay; Economic forecasting; Cointegration; Budget;

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth


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