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The American consumer: Reforming, or just resting?


  • Carroll, Christopher D.
  • Slacalek, Jirka


American households have received a triple dose of bad news since the beginning of the current recession: The greatest collapse in asset values since the Great Depression, a sharp tightening in credit availability, and a large increase in unemployment risk. We present measures of the size of these shocks and discuss what a benchmark theory says about their immediate and ultimate consequences. We then provide a forecast based on a simple empirical model that captures the effects of wealth shocks and unemployment fears. Our short-term forecast calls for somewhat weaker spending, and somewhat higher saving rates, than the Consensus survey of macroeconomic forecasters. Over the longer term, our best guess is that the personal saving rate will eventually approach the levels that preceded period of financial liberalization that began in the late 1970s.

Suggested Citation

  • Carroll, Christopher D. & Slacalek, Jirka, 2009. "The American consumer: Reforming, or just resting?," CFS Working Paper Series 2009/12, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:cfswop:200912

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hall, Robert E, 1978. "Stochastic Implications of the Life Cycle-Permanent Income Hypothesis: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 86(6), pages 971-987, December.
    2. Christopher D. Carroll & Jiri Slacalek & Martin Sommer, 2011. "International Evidence on Sticky Consumption Growth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1135-1145, November.
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    More about this item


    Consumption/Saving Forecast; Credit Crunch; Financial Crisis;

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity


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