Do the Rich Save More?

60 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2000 Last revised: 19 Oct 2010

See all articles by Karen E. Dynan

Karen E. Dynan

Harvard University; Peterson Institute for International Economics

Jonathan S. Skinner

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Stephen P. Zeldes

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2000

Abstract

The issue of whether higher lifetime income households save a larger fraction of their income is an important factor in the evaluation of tax and macroeconomic policy. Despite an outpouring of research on this topic in the 1950s and 1960s, the question remains unresolved and has since received little attention. This paper revisits the issue, using new empirical methods and the Panel Study on Income Dynamics, the Survey of Consumer Finances, and the Consumer Expenditure Survey. We first consider the various ways in which life cycle models can be altered to generate differences in saving rates by income groups: differences in Social Security benefits, different time preference rates, non-homothetic preferences, bequest motives, uncertainty, and consumption floors. Using a variety of instruments for lifetime income, we find a strong positive relationship between personal saving rates and lifetime income. The data do not support theories relying on time preference rates, non-homothetic preferences, or variations in Social Security benefits. Instead, the evidence is consistent with models in which precautionary saving and bequest motives drive variations in saving rates across income groups. Finally, we illustrate how models that assume a constant rate of saving across income groups can yield erroneous predictions.

Suggested Citation

Dynan, Karen E. and Skinner, Jonathan S. and Zeldes, Stephen P., Do the Rich Save More? (September 2000). NBER Working Paper No. w7906. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=242139

Karen E. Dynan (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

1750 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://piie.com/experts/senior-research-staff/karen-dynan

Jonathan S. Skinner

Dartmouth College - Department of Economics ( email )

Hanover, NH 03755
United States
603-646-2535 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
603-646-2535 (Phone)

Stephen P. Zeldes

Columbia Business School - Finance and Economics ( email )

3022 Broadway
Uris 825, Dept. of Finance & Economics
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2492 (Phone)
212-208-4699 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.columbia.edu/~spz1

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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