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On the relationships between real consumption, income, and wealth

2002-11, Whelan, Karl, Palumbo, Michael, Rudd, Jeremy

The existence of durable goods implies that the welfare flow from consumption cannot be directly associated with total consumption expenditures. As a result, tests of standard theories of consumption (such as the Permanent Income Hypothesis, or PIH) typically focus on nondurable goods and services. Specifically, these studies generally relate real consumption of nondurable goods and services to measures of real income and wealth, where the latter are deflated by a price index for total consumption expenditures. This paper demonstrates that this procedure is only valid under the assumption that real consumption of nondurables and services is a constant multiple of aggregate real consumption outlays - an assumption that represents a very poor description of U.S. data. The paper develops an alternative approach that is based on the observation that the ratio of these series has historically been stable in nominal terms, and uses this approach to examine two basic predictions of the PIH. We obtain significantly different results relative to the traditional approach.

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Empirical proxies for the consumption–wealth ratio

2006, Rudd, Jeremy, Whelan, Karl

Using a log-linearized approximation to an aggregate budget constraint, it is possible to show that the ratio of consumption to total (human and non-human) wealth summarizes agents' expectations concerning both future labor income and future asset returns. In a series of recent papers, Lettau and Ludvigson construct an empirical analogue to the consumption–wealth ratio by approximating total wealth with a linear combination of labor income and observable non-human wealth. If valid, this framework suggests that consumption, assets, and labor income will be cointegrated. We demonstrate, however, that standard tests fail to reject the hypothesis of no cointegration once one employs measures of consumption, assets, and labor income that are jointly consistent with an underlying budget constraint. We also show that deviations of consumption, assets, and income from an estimated common trend are unable to predict future excess returns on stocks out of sample once theoretically consistent measures are used.