Do the Rich Save More?

Posted: 8 Mar 2004

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)

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Abstract

The question of whether higher-lifetime income households save a larger fraction of their income was the subject of much debate in the 1950s and 1960s, and while the answer was not resolved, it remains central to the evaluation of tax and macroeconomic policies. We resolve this long-standing question using new empirical methods applied to the Panel Study on Income Dynamics, the Survey of Consumer Finances, and the Consumer Expenditure Survey. We find a strong positive relationship between saving rates and lifetime income and a weaker but still positive relationship between the marginal propensity to save and lifetime income. There is little support for theories that seek to explain these positive correlations by relying solely on time preference rates, nonhomothetic preferences, or variations in Social Security benefits. There is more support for models emphasizing uncertainty with respect to income and health expenses, bequest motives, and asset-based means testing or behavioral factors causing minimal saving rates among low-income households.

Suggested Citation

Dynan, Karen E. and Skinner, Jonathan S. and Zeldes, Stephen P., Do the Rich Save More?. Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 112, pp. 397-444, April 2004. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=515089

Karen E. Dynan

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 (Contact Author)

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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