The consumption response to positive and negative income changes

Working papers set out research in progress by our staff, with the aim of encouraging comments and debate.
Published on 06 February 2017

Working Paper No. 645
By Philip Bunn, Jeanne Le Roux, Kate Reinold and Paolo Surico

A set of newly added questions in the 2011 to 2014 Bank of England/NMG Consulting Survey reveals that British households are estimated to change their consumption by significantly more in reaction to temporary and unanticipated falls in income than to rises of the same size. Household balance sheet characteristics (including the presence of a savings buffer), concerns about credit market access and higher subjective risk of lower future income account for a sizable share of this spending asymmetry and explain significant variation in the marginal propensity to consume across households. Our findings have important implications for predicting the response of aggregate consumption to expansionary and contractionary macroeconomic policies.

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