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Saving Puzzles and Saving Policies in the United States

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  • Annamaria Lusardi
  • Jonathan Skinner
  • Steven F. Venti

Abstract

In the past two decades the widely reported personal saving rate in the United States has dropped from double digits to below zero. First, we attempt to account for the decline in the National Income and ProductAccounts (NIPA) saving rate. The macroeconomic literature suggests that about half of the drop since 1988 can be attributed to households spending stock market capital gains. Another thirty percent is accounting transfers from personal saving into government and corporate saving because of the way pensions and capital gains taxes are treated in the NIPA. Second, while NIPA saving measures are well suited for measuring the supply of new funds for investment and capital accumulation, it is not clear that they should be the target of government saving policies. Finally, we emphasize that the NIPA saving rate is not useful in judging whether households are preparing for retirement or other contingencies. Many households have accumulated significant wealth, primarily through retirement saving vehicles and capital gains, even as the saving rate slid. There remains a segment of the population, however, who save little and whose behavior appears untouched either by the stock market boom or the slide in personal saving. We explore reasons and policy options for their puzzlingly low saving rate.

Suggested Citation

  • Annamaria Lusardi & Jonathan Skinner & Steven F. Venti, 2001. "Saving Puzzles and Saving Policies in the United States," JCPR Working Papers 220, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:220
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    3. Attanasio, Orazio & Kitao, Sagiri & Violante, Giovanni L., 2007. "Global demographic trends and social security reform," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 144-198, January.
    4. Illing, Gerhard & Klüh, Ulrich, 2004. "Vermögenspreise und Konsum," Discussion Papers in Economics 316, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    5. Martin Browning & Thomas F. Crossley, 2001. "The Life-Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
    6. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti, 2004. "The Transition to Personal Accounts and Increasing Retirement Wealth: Macro- and Microevidence," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 17-80, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2001. "The Changing Face of Private Retirement Saving in the United States," CESifo Forum, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 2(4), pages 3-11, October.
    8. Annamaria Lusardi & Jonathan Skinner & Steven Venti, 2003. "Pension Accounting & Personal Saving," Just the Facts jtf8, Center for Retirement Research.
    9. Börsch-Supan, Axel & Annamaria Lusardi, 2002. "Saving Viewed from a Cross-National Perspective," MEA discussion paper series 02024, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
    10. Gerhard Illing & Ulrich Klüh, 2005. "Vermögenspreise und Konsum: Neue Erkenntnisse, amerikanische Erfahrungen und europäische Herausforderungen," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 6(1), pages 1-22, February.
    11. International Monetary Fund, 2005. "Ireland; Selected Issues," IMF Staff Country Reports 2005/370, International Monetary Fund.
    12. Frank N. Caliendo, 2009. "Is Social Security behind the Collapse of Personal Saving?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2746, CESifo.
    13. Huffman, David B. & Barenstein, Matias, 2004. "Riches to Rags Every Month? The Fall in Consumption Expenditures Between Paydays," IZA Discussion Papers 1430, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. Alzuabi, Raslan & Brown, Sarah & Gray, Daniel & Harris, Mark N. & Spencer, Christopher, 2019. "Household Saving, Health, and Healthcare Utilisation in Japan," CEI Working Paper Series 2018-17, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    15. Chanda, Areendam, 2008. "The rise in returns to education and the decline in household savings," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 436-469, February.
    16. Inna Verbina, 2003. "Inconsistency in Savings Pattern: Is there an Endogeneity Bias?," WIDER Working Paper Series DP2003-39, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    17. Marialuz Moreno Badia, 2006. "Who Saves in Ireland? The Micro Evidence," IMF Working Papers 2006/131, International Monetary Fund.
    18. Tim S. Griesdorn & Dorothy B. Durband, 2016. "Does Self-control Predict Wealth Creation Among Young Baby Boomers?," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 18-28, March.
    19. Martha A. Starr, 2006. "Macroeconomic dimensions of social economics: Saving, the stock market, and pension systems," Working Papers 2006-09, American University, Department of Economics.
    20. James M. Poterba & Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 2001. "The Changing Face of Private Retirement Saving in the United States," CESifo Forum, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 2(04), pages 3-11, October.
    21. Johann K. Brunner & Susanne Pech, 2001. "Die Dritte Säule der Altersvorsorge," Economics working papers 2001-09, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    22. Wynne Godley & Alex Izurieta, 2001. "As The Implosion Begins . . .? Prospects and Policies for the U.S. Economy: A Strategic View," Economics Strategic Analysis Archive 01-7, Levy Economics Institute.

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    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior

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