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The reaction of consumer spending and debt to tax rebates: Evidence from consumer credit data

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  • Lusardi, Annamaria
  • Mitchell, Olivia S.

Abstract

We use a new panel dataset of credit card accounts to analyze how consumer responded to the 2001 Federal income tax rebates. We estimate the monthly response of credit card payments, spending, and debt, exploiting the unique, randomized timing of the rebate disbursement. We find that, on average, consumers initially saved some of the rebate, by increasing their credit card payments and thereby paying down debt. But soon afterwards their spending increased, counter to the canonical Permanent-Income model. Spending rose most for consumers who were initially most likely to be liquidity constrained, whereas debt declined most (so saving rose most) for unconstrained consumers. More generally, the results suggest that there can be important dynamics in consumers' response to 'lumpy' increases in income like tax rebates, working in part through balance sheet (liquidity) mechanisms.

Suggested Citation

  • Lusardi, Annamaria & Mitchell, Olivia S., 2007. "The reaction of consumer spending and debt to tax rebates: Evidence from consumer credit data," CFS Working Paper Series 2008/01, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200801
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Consumption; Saving; Life-Cycle Model; Permanent-Income Hypothesis; Liquidity Constraints; Fiscal Policy; Tax Cuts; Tax Rebates; Windfalls; Credit Cards; Consumer Credit; Consumer Balance Sheets; Household Finance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E51 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Money Supply; Credit; Money Multipliers
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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