The Demographic Composition of Cyclical Consumption Volatility
20 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2019 Last revised: 2 Apr 2020
Date Written: April 2, 2020
This paper studies the effects of demographic structure on the cyclical volatility of aggregate consumption. We first document that young households have more volatile consumption expenditures in business cycles than prime-aged ones. Then, we identify large effects of demographic composition on cyclical volatility of consumption using variations of population age structure for 30 countries from 1951 to 2016. A simple model with differences in credit market access and exposure to shocks between agents of different age explains the empirical findings. When calibrated to the U.S. data, the model indicates that the former channel explains roughly 60 percent of the differences in cyclical consumption responses between young and old households, while the latter channel explains the remaining 40 percent.
Keywords: demographic structure, business cycle, consumption volatility
JEL Classification: E21, E32, J11
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