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

  • Lusardi, Annamaria
  • Mitchell, Olivia S.

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.

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Paper provided by Center for Financial Studies (CFS) in its series CFS Working Paper Series with number 2008/01.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200801
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  1. Matthew D. Shapiro & Joel Slemrod, 1993. "Consumer Response to the Timing of Income: Evidence from a Change in Tax Withholding," NBER Working Papers 4344, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. David W. Wilcox, 1987. "Social security benefits, consumption expenditure, and the life cycle hypothesis," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 78, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Peter S. Yoo, 1998. "Still charging: the growth of credit card debt between 1992 and 1995," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 19-27.
  4. David S. Johnson & Jonathan A. Parker & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2004. "Household Expenditure and the Income Tax Rebates of 2001," NBER Working Papers 10784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Chang-Tai Hsieh, 2003. "Do Consumers React to Anticipated Income Changes? Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 397-405, March.
  11. Souleles, Nicholas S., 2002. "Consumer response to the Reagan tax cuts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(1), pages 99-120, July.
  12. M. Dolores Collado & Martín Browning, 1999. "-The Response Of Expenditures To Anticipated Income Changes: Panel Data Estimates," Working Papers. Serie AD 1999-19, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  13. Alan S. Blinder & Angus Deaton, 1985. "The Time Series Consumption Function Revisited," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 16(2), pages 465-521.
  14. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2003. "The Consumption Response to Predictable Changes in Discretionary Income: Evidence from the Repayment of Vehicle Loans," NBER Working Papers 9976, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Melvin Stephens Jr., 2003. ""3rd of tha Month": Do Social Security Recipients Smooth Consumption Between Checks?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 406-422, March.
  16. Souleles, Nicholas S, 2004. "Expectations, Heterogeneous Forecast Errors, and Consumption: Micro Evidence from the Michigan Consumer Sentiment Surveys," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 36(1), pages 39-72, February.
  17. Poterba, James M, 1988. "Are Consumers Forward Looking? Evidence from Fiscal Experiments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 413-18, May.
  18. Stephens Melvin, 2006. "Paycheque Receipt and the Timing of Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(513), pages 680-701, 07.
  19. Shea, John, 1995. "Union Contracts and the Life-Cycle/Permanent-Income Hypothesis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 186-200, March.
  20. Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "The Response of Household Consumption to Income Tax Refunds," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 947-958, September.
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