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Does income inequality lead to consumption inequality? Evidence and theory

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  • Krueger, Dirk
  • Perri, Fabrizio

Abstract

Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey we first document that the recent increase in income inequality in the US has not been accompanied by a corresponding rise in consumption inequality. Much of this divergence is due to different trends in within-group inequality, which has increased significantly for income but little for consumption. We then develop a simple framework that allows us to analytically characterize how within-group income inequality affects consumption inequality in a world in which agents can trade a full set of contingent consumption claims, subject to endogenous constraints emanating from the limited enforcement of intertemporal contracts (as in Kehoe and Levine, 1993). Finally, we quantitatively evaluate, in the context of a calibrated general equilibrium production economy, whether this set-up, or alternatively a standard incomplete markets model (as in Ayiagari 1994), can account for the documented stylized consumption inequality facts from the US data.

Suggested Citation

  • Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio, 2005. "Does income inequality lead to consumption inequality? Evidence and theory," CFS Working Paper Series 2005/15, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200515
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Limited Enforcement; Risk Sharing; Consumption Inequality;
    All these keywords.

    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
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies

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