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Estimating the marginal propensity to consume using the distributions of income, consumption and wealth
Recent studies of economic inequality almost always separately examine income, consumption, and wealth inequality and, hence, miss the important synergy among the three measures explicit in the life-cycle budget constraint. Using Panel Study of Income Dynamics data from 1999 through 2013, we examine whether these changes are more dramatic at higher or lower levels of wealth and find that the marginal propensity to consume is lower at higher wealth quintiles. This suggests that low-wealth households cannot smooth consumption as much as other households do, which further implies that increasing wealth inequality likely reduces aggregate consumption and limits economic growth.
AUTHORS: Fisher, Jonathan D.; Smeeding, Timothy; Johnson, David; Thompson, Jeffrey P.
Credit card utilization and consumption over the life cycle and business cycle
The revolving credit available to consumers changes substantially over the business cycle, life cycle, and for individuals. We show that debt changes at the same time as credit, so credit utilization is remarkably stable. From ages 20?40, for example, credit card limits grow by more than 700 percent, and yet utilization holds steadily at around 50 percent. We estimate a structural model of life-cycle consumption and credit use in which credit cards can be used for payments, precautionary smoothing, and life-cycle smoothing, uniting their monetary and revolving credit functions. Our estimates predict stable utilization closely matching the individual, life-cycle, and business-cycle relationships between credit and debt. The preference heterogeneity implied by the different uses of credit cards drives our results. The revealed preference that some people with credit cards borrow at high interest, while others do not, suggests that around half the population is living nearly hand to mouth.
AUTHORS: Schuh, Scott; Fulford, Scott L.
How does liquidity affect consumer payment choice?
We measure consumers? readiness to face emergency expenses. Based on data from a representative survey of US consumers, we find that financial readiness varies widely across consumers, with lowest-income, least-educated, unemployed, and black consumers most likely to have $0 saved for emergency expenses. For these consumers, even a temporary financial shock, either an unexpected negative income shock (such as a layoff or a short-term government shutdown) or an unexpected expenditure (such as a medical expense or a car repair), could have severe financial consequences. The literature likely underestimates the consequences, because consumers who are not financially prepared to cover unexpected expenses are more likely to borrow on their credit cards, adding to their existing debt. Thus the cost of relying on credit cards is likely very high for consumers who are already financially vulnerable. We use panel data to examine whether consumers who experienced a substantial drop in income from one year to the next, like one resulting from a layoff or a government shutdown, increased their credit card borrowing. We do not find evidence that a negative income shock raises consumers? likelihood of revolving on credit cards or increasing the amount borrowed.
AUTHORS: Stavins, Joanna
Does getting a mortgage affect credit card use?
Buying a house changes a household?s balance sheet by simultaneously reducing liquidity and introducing mortgage payments, which may leave the household more exposed to other shocks. We find that this change affects credit card use in two ways: A debt effect increases credit card spending, while a credit effect leads to higher credit limits. In the short run, a new mortgage acquisition has a robust and statistically significant positive effect on credit card utilization ? the fraction of a consumer?s credit card limit that is used ? of approximately 11 percentage points. Before the 2008 financial crisis, the credit effect exceeded the debt effect in the long run, pushing down long-term utilization. In our sample period after the financial crisis, the debt effect dominated in the long run, and credit card utilization rates rose upon the acquisition of a new mortgage, consistent with larger down payments leaving households more constrained.
AUTHORS: Fulford, Scott L.; Stavins, Joanna
Did the 2017 Tax Reform Discriminate against Blue State Voters?
The Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) made significant changes to corporate and personal federal income taxation, including limiting the SALT (state and local property, income and sales taxes) deductibility to $10,000. States with high SALT tend to vote Democratic. This paper estimates the differential effect of the TCJA on red- and blue-state taxpayers and investigates the importance of the SALT limitation to this differential. We calculate the effect of permanent implementation of the TCJA on households using The Fiscal Analyzer: a life-cycle, consumption-smoothing program incorporating all major federal and state fiscal policies. We find that the average percentage increase in remaining lifetime spending under the TCJA is 1.6 percent in red states versus 1.3 percent in blue states. Among the richest 10 percent of households, this differential is larger. Rich households in red states enjoyed a 2.0 percent increase compared to a 1.2 percent increase among the rich in blue-state households. This gap is driven almost entirely by the limitation on the SALT deduction. Excluding the SALT limitation from the TCJA results in a spending gain of 2.6 percent for rich red-state households compared to 2.7 percent for rich blue-state households.
AUTHORS: Altig, David E.; Auerbach, Alan J.; Higgins, Patrick C.; Koehler, Darryl; Kotlikoff, Laurence J.; Leiseca, Michael; Terry, Ellie; Ye, Victor
We show that prior lifetime experiences can "scar" consumers. Consumers who have lived through times of high unemployment exhibit persistent pessimism about their future financial situation and spend significantly less, controlling for the standard life-cycle consumption factors, even though their actual future income is uncorrelated with past experiences. Due to their experience-induced frugality, scarred consumers build up more wealth. We use a stochastic lifecycle model to show that the negative relationship between past experiences and consumption cannot be generated by financial constraints, income scarring, and unemployment scarring, but is consistent with experience-based learning.
AUTHORS: Malmendier, Ulrike; Shen, Leslie Sheng
Are Millennials Different?
The economic wellbeing of the millennial generation, which entered its working-age years around the time of the 2007-09 recession, has received considerable attention from economists and the popular press. This chapter compares the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of millennials with those of earlier generations and compares their income, saving, and consumption expenditures. Relative to members of earlier generations, millennials are more racially diverse, more educated, and more likely to have deferred marriage; these comparisons are continuations of longer-run trends in the population. Millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth. For debt, millennials hold levels similar to those of Generation X and more than those of the baby boomers. Conditional on their age and other factors, millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ signi ficantly from those of earlier generations.
AUTHORS: Kurz, Christopher J.; Li, Geng; Vine, Daniel J.
A Day Late and a Dollar Short : Liquidity and Household Formation among Student Borrowers
The federal government encourages human capital investment through lending and grant programs, but resources from these programs may also finance non-education activities for students whose liquidity is otherwise restricted. This paper explores this possibility, using administrative data for the universe of federal student loan borrowers linked to tax records. We examine the effects of a sharp discontinuity in program limits?generated by the timing of a student borrower?s 24th birthday?on household formation early in the lifecycle. After demonstrating that this discontinuity induces a jump in federal support, we estimate an immediate and persistent increase in homeownership, with larger effects among those most financially constrained. In the first year, borrowers with higher limits also earn less but are more likely to save; however, there are no differences in subsequent years. Finally, effects on marriage and fertility lag homeownership. Altogether, the results appear to be driven by liquidity rather than human capital or wealth effects.
AUTHORS: Goodman, Sarena; Isen, Adam; Yannelis, Constantine
Subjective intertemporal substitution
We estimate the elasticity of intertemporal substitution (EIS)?the response of expected consumption growth to changes in the real interest rate?using subjective expectations data from the New York Fed?s Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE). This unique data set allows us to estimate the consumption Euler equation with no auxiliary assumptions about the properties of expectations, which are instead necessary when using choice data. We find a subjective EIS of about 0.5, consistent with the results of much of the literature based on microeconomic data and supportive of typical macroeconomic calibrations. We also uncover strong evidence of excess sensitivity of planned consumption growth to expected income changes, even among households that are unlikely to be liquidity constrained.
AUTHORS: Crump, Richard K.; Eusepi, Stefano; Tambalotti, Andrea; Topa, Giorgio