FEDS 2019-010: Lifecycle Patterns of Saving and Wealth Accumulation(Revised)



Abstract:

Laura J. Feiveson and John Sabelhaus | Empirical analysis of U.S. income, saving and wealth dynamics is constrained by a lack of high-quality and comprehensive household-level panel data. This paper uses a pseudo-panel approach, tracking types of agents by birth cohort and across time through a series of cross-section snapshots synthesized with macro aggregates. The key micro source data is the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), which captures the top of the wealth distribution by sampling from administrative records. The SCF has the detailed balance sheet components, incomes, and interfamily transfers needed to use both sides of the intertemporal budget constraint and thus solve for saving and consumption. The wealth change decomposition by age and agent type provides a new set of benchmarks for heterogeneous agent macro models, reconciling observed anomalies about lifecycle saving behavior and emphasizing the importance of generally unmeasured incomes (interfamily transfers and capital gains) in wealth accumulation dynamics.

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