Discussion Paper

How Have Households Used Their Stimulus Payments and How Would They Spend the Next?

Abstract: In this post, we examine how households used economic impact payments, a large component of the CARES Act signed into law on March 27 that directed stimulus payments to many Americans to help offset the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. An important question in evaluating how much this part of the CARES Act stimulated the economy concerns what share of these payments households used for consumption—what economists call the marginal propensity to consume (MPC). There also is interest in learning the extent to which the payments contributed to the sharp increase in the U.S. personal saving rate during the early months of the pandemic. We find in this analysis that as of the end of June 2020, a relatively small share of stimulus payments—29 percent—was used for consumption, with 36 percent saved and 35 percent used to pay down debt. Reported expected uses for a potential second stimulus payment suggest an even smaller MPC, with households expecting to use more of the funds to pay down their debts. We find similarly small estimated average consumption out of unemployment insurance (UI) payments, but with somewhat larger shares of these funds used to pay down debt.

Keywords: pandemic; stimulus payments; marginal propensity to consume; COVID-19;

JEL Classification: I15; J01;

Access Documents


Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Part of Series: Liberty Street Economics

Publication Date: 2020-10-13

Number: 20201013b