Does job insecurity affect household consumption?

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 14 May 2004

Working Paper No. 220
By Andrew Benito

This paper confronts implications of precautionary saving models with microdata on British households. The results provide support for the central proposition that job insecurity depresses household consumption levels. A one standard deviation increase in unemployment risk for the head of household is estimated to reduce household consumption by 2.7%. Interpreting the spread of the distribution across workers in job insecurity levels as consisting of four standard deviations, this implies that moving from the bottom to the top of the distribution gives rise to a reduction in consumption of 11%, ceteris paribus. This effect is estimated to be greater for the young, those without non-labour income and manual workers, a pattern also consistent with the predictions of precautionary saving models. The paper then studies the propensity for households to purchase durable goods and finds durables purchases to be delayed significantly by higher unemployment risk. The paper therefore demonstrates that job insecurity affects aggregate demand through both non-durable and durable expenditure, controlling for other influences including estimated permanent income.

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