Year of publication
- Investment in financial literacy and saving decisions (2011)
- We present an intertemporal consumption model of consumer investment in financial literacy. Consumers benefit from such investment because their stock of financial literacy allows them to increase the returns on their wealth. Since literacy depreciates over time and has a cost in terms of current consumption, the model determines an optimal investment in literacy. The model shows that financial literacy and wealth are determined jointly, and are positively correlated over the life cycle. Empirically, the model leads to an instrumental variables approach, in which the initial stock of financial literacy (as measured by math performance in school) is used as an instrument for the current stock of literacy. Using microeconomic and aggregate data, we find a strong effect of financial literacy on wealth accumulation and national saving, and also show that ordinary least squares estimates underestate the impact of financial literacy on saving. JEL Classification: E2, D8, G1, J24 Keywords: Financial Literacy, Cognitive Abilities, Human Capital, Saving
- Wealth shocks, unemployment shocks and consumption in the wake of the Great Recession (2011)
- We use data from the 2009 Internet Survey of the Health and Retirement Study to examine the consumption impact of wealth shocks and unemployment during the Great Recession in the US. We find that many households experienced large capital losses in housing and in their financial portfolios, and that a non-trivial fraction of respondents have lost their job. As a consequence of these shocks, many households reduced substantially their expenditures. We estimate that the marginal propensities to consume with respect to housing and financial wealth are 1 and 3.3 percentage points, respectively. In addition, those who became unemployed reduced spending by 10 percent. We also distinguish the effect of perceived transitory and permanent wealth shocks, splitting the sample between households who think that the stock market is likely to recover in a year’s time, and those who don’t. In line with the predictions of standard models of intertemporal choice, we find that the latter group adjusted much more than the former its spending in response to financial wealth shocks.
- Investment in financial literacy, social security and portfolio choice : [version may 21, 2013] (2013)
- We present an intertemporal portfolio choice model where individuals invest in financial literacy, save, allocate their wealth between a safe and a risky asset, and receive a pension when they retire. Financial literacy affects the excess return and the cost of stock market participation. Since literacy depreciates over time and has a cost related to current consumption, investors simultaneously choose how much to save, the portfolio allocation, and the optimal investment in literacy. This last depends on households' resources, its preference parameters and on how much financial literacy affects the returns on risky assets and the stock market participation cost, and the returns on social security wealth. The model implies one should observe a positive correlation between stock market participation (and risky asset share, conditional on participation) and financial literacy, and a negative correlation between the generosity of the social security system and financial literacy. The model also implies that the stock of financial literacy accumulated early in life is positively correlated with the individual's wealth and portfolio allocations later in life. Using microeconomic cross-country data, we find support for these predictions.
- Manipulating reliance on intuition reduces risk and ambiguity aversion (2013)
- Prior research suggests that those who rely on intuition rather than effortful reasoning when making decisions are less averse to risk and ambiguity. The evidence is largely correlational, however, leaving open the question of the direction of causality. In this paper, we present experimental evidence of causation running from reliance on intuition to risk and ambiguity preferences. We directly manipulate participants’ predilection to rely on intuition and find that enhancing reliance on intuition lowers the probability of being ambiguity averse by 30 percentage points and increases risk tolerance by about 30 percent in the experimental sub-population where we would a priori expect the manipulation to be successful(males).
- Fiscal policy and MPC heterogeneity (2013)
- We use responses to survey questions in the 2010 Italian Survey of Household Income and Wealth that ask consumers how much of an unexpected transitory income change they would consume. We find that the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) is 48 percent on average, and that there is substantial heterogeneity in the distribution. We find that households with low cash-on-hand exhibit a much higher MPC than affluent households, which is in agreement with models with precautionary savings where income risk plays an important role. The results have important implications for the evaluation of fiscal policy, and for predicting household responses to tax reforms and redistributive policies. In particular, we find that a debt-financed increase in transfers of 1 percent of national disposable income targeted to the bottom decile of the cash-on-hand distribution would increase aggregate consumption by 0.82 percent. Furthermore, we find that redistributing 1% of national disposable income from the top to the bottom decile of the income distribution would boost aggregate consumption by 0.33%.
- Households’ saving and debt in Italy (2007)
- We review savings trends in Italy, summarizing available empirical evidence on Italians’ motives to save, relying on macroeconomic indicators as well as on data drawn from the Bank of Italy’s Survey of Household Income and Wealth from 1984 to 2004. The macroeconomic data indicate that households’ saving has dropped significantly, although Italy continues to rank above most other countries in terms of saving. We then examine with microeconomic data four indicators of household financial conditions: the propensity to save, the proportion of households with negative savings, the proportion of households with debt, and the proportion of households that lack access to formal credit markets. By international comparison, the level of debt of Italian households and default risk are relatively low. But in light of the deep changes undergone by the Italian pension system, the fall in saving is a concern, particularly for individuals who entered the labor market after the 1995 reform and who have experienced the largest decline in pension wealth. JEL Classification: D91
- A direct test of the buffer-stock model of saving (2007)
- Recent models with liquidity constraints and impatience emphasize that consumers use savings to buffer income fluctuations. When wealth is below an optimal target, consumers try to increase their buffer stock of wealth by saving more. When it is above target, they increase consumption. This important implication of the buffer stock model of saving has not been subject to direct empirical testing. We derive from the model an appropriate theoretical restriction and test it using data on working-age individuals drawn from the 2002 and 2004 Italian Surveys of Household Income and Wealth. One of the most appealing features of the survey is that it has data on the amount of wealth held for precautionary purposes, which we interpret as target wealth in a buffer stock model. The test results do not support buffer stock behavior, even among population groups that are more likely, a priori, to display such behavior. The saving behavior of young households is instead consistent with models in which impatience, relative to prudence, is not as high as in buffer stock models. JEL Classification: D91
- Wealth shocks, unemployment shocks and consumption in the wake of the Great Recession (2014)
- We use data from the 2009 Internet Survey of the Health and Retirement Study to examine the consumption impact of wealth shocks and unemployment during the Great Recession in the US. We find that many households experienced large capital losses in housing and in their financial portfolios, and that a non-trivial fraction of respondents have lost their job. As a consequence of these shocks, many households reduced substantially their expenditures. We estimate that the marginal propensities to consume with respect to housing and financial wealth are 1 and 3.3 percentage points, respectively. In addition, those who became unemployed reduced spending by 10 percent. We also distinguish the effect of perceived transitory and permanent wealth shocks, splitting the sample between households who think that the stock market is likely to recover in a year’s time, and those who do not. In line with the predictions of standard models of intertemporal choice, we find that the latter group adjusted much more than the former its spending in response to financial wealth shocks.
- Intertemporal choice and consumption mobility (2005)
- The theory of intertemporal consumption choice makes sharp predictions about the evolution of the entire distribution of household consumption, not just about its conditional mean. In the paper, we study the empirical transition matrix of consumption using a panel drawn from the Bank of Italy Survey of Household Income and Wealth. We estimate the parameters that minimize the distance between the empirical and the theoretical transition matrix of the consumption distribution. The transition matrix generated by our estimates matches remarkably well the empirical matrix, both in the aggregate and in samples stratified by education. Our estimates strongly reject the consumption insurance model and suggest that households smooth income shocks to a lesser extent than implied by the permanent income hypothesis. Klassifikation: D52, D91, I30
- Awareness and stock market participation (2005)
- The paper documents lack of awareness of financial assets in the 1995 and 1998 Bank of Italy Surveys of Household Income and Wealth. It then explores the determinants of awareness, and finds that the probability that survey respondents are aware of stocks, mutual funds and investment accounts is positively correlated with education, household resources, long-term bank relations and proxies for social interaction. Lack of financial awareness has important implications for understanding the stockholding puzzle and for estimating stock market participation costs. Klassifikation: E2, D8, G1