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Working Paper

A Model of Expenditure Shocks

We document four features of consumption and income microdata: (1) household-level consumption is as volatile as household income on average, (2) household-level consumption has a positive but small correlation with income, (3) many low-wealth households have marginal propensities to consume near zero, and (4) lagged high expenditure is associated with low contemporaneous spending propensities. Our interpretation is that household expenditure depends on time-varying consumption thresholds where marginal utility discontinuously increases. Our model with consumption thresholds matches the four facts better than does a standard model. Poor households in our model also exhibit “excess sensitivity” to anticipated income declines.

Working Papers of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment on research in progress. They may not have been subject to the formal editorial review accorded official Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publications. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

Suggested Citation

Miranda-Pinto, Jorge, Daniel Murphy, Eric R. Young, and Kieran James Walsh. 2020. “A Model of Expenditure Shocks.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 20-04.