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.
- 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
- 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
- Retirement expectations, pension reforms and their impact on private wealth accumulation (2006)
- We estimate the effect of pension reforms on households' expectations of retirement outcomes and private wealth accumulation decisions exploiting a decade of intense Italian pension reforms as a source of exogenous variation in expected pension wealth. The Survey of Household Income and Wealth, a large random sample of the Italian population, elicits expectations of the age at which workers expect to retire and of the ratio of pension benefits to pre-retirement income between 1989 and 2002. We find that workers have revised expectations in the direction suggested by the reform and that there is substantial offset between private wealth and perceived pension wealth, particularly by workers that are better informed about their pension wealth. Klassifikation: E21, H55
- Economic literacy: an international comparison (2010)
- Many studies show that most people are not financially literate and are unfamiliar with even the most basic economic concepts. However, the evidence on the determinants of economic literacy is scant. This paper uses international panel data on 55 countries from 1995 to 2008, merging indicators of economic literacy with a large set of macroeconomic and institutional variables. Results show that there is substantial heterogeneity of financial and economic competence across countries, and that human capital indicators (PISA test scores and college attendance) are positively correlated with economic literacy. Furthermore, inhabitants of countries with more generous social security systems are generally less literate, lending support to the hypothesis that the incentives to acquire economic literacy are related to the amount of resources available for private accumulation. JEL Classification: E2, D8, G1
- Do the elderly reduce housing equity? : An international comparison (2008)
- We explore the pattern of elderly homeownership using microeconomic surveys of 15 OECD countries, merging 60 national household surveys on about 300,000 individuals. In all countries the survey is repeated over time, permitting construction of an international dataset of repeated cross-sectional data. We find that ownership rates decline considerably after age 60 in all countries. However, a large part of the decline depends on cohort effects. Adjusting for them, we find that ownership rates start falling after age 70 and reach a percentage point per year decline after age 75. We find that differences across country ownership trajectories are correlated with indicators measuring the degree of market regulations.
- Cognitive abilities and portfolio choice (2008)
- We study the relation between cognitive abilities and stockholding using the recent Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), which has detailed data on wealth and portfolio composition of individuals aged 50+ in 11 European countries and three indicators of cognitive abilities: mathematical, verbal fluency, and recall skills. We find that the propensity to invest in stocks is strongly associated with cognitive abilities, for both direct stock market participation and indirect participation through mutual funds and retirement accounts. Since the decision to invest in less information-intensive assets (such as bonds) is less strongly related to cognitive abilities, we conclude that the association between cognitive abilities and stockholding is driven by information constraints, rather than by features of preferences or psychological traits.