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Do tax cuts increase consumption? An experimental test of Ricardian Equivalence

Listed author(s):
  • Meissner, Thomas
  • Rostam-Afschar, Davud

This paper tests whether the Ricardian Equivalence proposition holds in a life cycle consumption laboratory experiment. This proposition is a fundamental assumption underlying numerous studies on intertemporal choice and has important implications for tax policy. Using nonparametric and panel data methods, we find that the Ricardian Equivalence proposition does not hold in general. Our results suggest that taxation has a significant and strong impact on consumption choice. Over the life cycle, a tax relief increases consumption on average by about 22% of the tax rebate. A tax increase causes consumption to decrease by about 30% of the tax increase. These results are robust with respect to variations in the difficulty to smooth consumption. In our experiment, we find the behavior of about 62% of our subjects to be inconsistent with the Ricardian proposition. Our results show dynamic effects; taxation inuences consumption beyond the current period.

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File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/100029/1/791625567.pdf
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Paper provided by Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 2014/16.

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Date of creation: 2014
Handle: RePEc:zbw:fubsbe:201416
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  1. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  2. Thomas Meissner, 2016. "Intertemporal consumption and debt aversion: an experimental study," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(2), pages 281-298, June.
  3. Stephen P. Zeldes, 1989. "Optimal Consumption with Stochastic Income: Deviations from Certainty Equivalence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 275-298.
  4. Roberto Ricciuti & Davide Di Laurea, 2003. "An experimental analysis of two departures from Ricardian equivalence," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 8(11), pages 1-11.
  5. Shapiro, Matthew D & Slemrod, Joel, 1995. "Consumer Response to the Timing of Income: Evidence from a Change in Tax Withholding," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 274-283, March.
  6. Slate, Stephen & McKee, Michael & Beck, William & Alm, James, 1995. "Testing Ricardian Equivalence under Uncertainty," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 85(1-2), pages 11-29, October.
  7. Enrica Carbone & John D. Hey, 2004. "The effect of unemployment on consumption: an experimental analysis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 660-683, 07.
  8. repec:pit:wpaper:334 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1981. "The Adjustment of Consumption to Changing Expectations about Future Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 974-1009, October.
  10. T. Parker Ballinger & Michael G. Palumbo & Nathaniel T. Wilcox, 2003. "Precautionary saving and social learning across generations: an experiment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 113(490), pages 920-947, October.
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