MPC Heterogeneity and Household Balance Sheets
68 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2019
Date Written: May 2019
We use sizeable lottery prizes in Norwegian administrative panel data to characterize households’ marginal propensities to consume (MPCs). Our main contribution is to document how MPCs vary with household characteristics and prize size, and how lottery prizes are spent and saved over time. We find that spending spikes in the year of winning, and reverts to normal within 5 years. Controlling for all items on households’ balance sheets and characteristics such as education and income, it is the amount won, age and liquid assets that vary systematically with MPCs. Low-liquidity winners of the smallest prizes (around USD 1,500) are estimated to spend all within the year of winning. The same estimate for high-liquidity winners of large prizes (USD 8,300-150,000) is slightly below one half. While conventional models will struggle to account for such high MPC levels, we show that a two-asset life-cycle model with a realistic earnings profile and a luxury bequest motive can account for both the time profile of consumption responses and their systematic co-variation with observables.
Keywords: marginal propensity to consume, household heterogeneity, income shocks
JEL Classification: D120, D140, D910, E210
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