Essays on Consumption : - Aggregation, Asymmetry and Asset Distributions

Abstract: The dissertation consists of four self-contained essays on consumption. Essays 1 and 2 consider different measures of aggregate consumption, and Essays 3 and 4 consider how the distributions of income and wealth affect consumption from a macro and micro perspective, respectively.Essay 1 considers the empirical practice of seemingly interchangeable use of two measures of consumption; total consumption expenditure and consumption expenditure on nondurable goods and services. Using data from Sweden and the US in an error correction model, it is shown that consumption functions based on the two measures exhibit significant differences in several aspects of econometric modelling.Essay 2, coauthored with Thomas Holgersson, considers derivation of a univariate and a multivariate version of a test for asymmetry, based on the third central moment. The logic behind the test is that the dependent variable should correspond to the specification of the econometric model; symmetric with linear models and asymmetric with non-linear models. The main result in the empirical application of the test is that orthodox theory seems to be supported for consumption of both nondurable and durable consumption. The consumption of durables shows little deviation from symmetry in the four-country sample, while the consumption of nondurables is shown to be asymmetric in two out of four cases, the UK and the US.Essay 3 departs from the observation that introducing income uncertainty makes the consumption function concave, implying that the distributions of wealth and income are omitted variables in aggregate Euler equations. This implication is tested through estimation of the distributions over time and augmentation of consumption functions, using Swedish data for 1963-2000. The results show that only the dispersion of wealth is significant, the explanation of which is found in the marked changes of the group of households with negative wealth; a group that according to a concave consumption function has the highest marginal propensity to consume.Essay 4 attempts to empirically specify the nature of the alleged concavity of the consumption function. Using grouped household level Swedish data for 1999-2001, it is shown that the marginal propensity to consume out of current resources, i.e. current income and net wealth, is strictly decreasing in current resources and net wealth, but approximately constant in income. Also, an empirical reciprocal to the stylized theoretical consumption function is estimated, and shown to bear a close resemblance to the theoretical version.