How Individuals Respond to a Liquidity Shock: Evidence from the 2013 Government Shutdown
52 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2015 Last revised: 26 Feb 2019
Date Written: March 2015
Using comprehensive account records, this paper examines how individuals adjusted spending and saving in response to a temporary drop in liquidity due to the 2013 U.S. government shutdown. The shutdown cut paychecks by 40% for affected employees, which was recovered within 2 weeks. Because the shutdown affected only the timing of payments, it provides a distinctive experiment allowing estimates of the response to a liquidity shock holding income constant. Spending dropped sharply, implying a naïve estimate of 58 cents less spending for every dollar of lost liquidity. This estimate overstates the consumption response. While many individuals had low liquid assets, they used multiple sources of short-term liquidity to smooth consumption. Sources of short-term liquidity include delaying recurring payments such as for mortgages and credit card balances.
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