Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Scarred Consumption

Author(s): Ulrike M. Malmendier and Leslie Sheng Shen

Publication Date: June 2020


Programme Area(s): Financial Economics and Macroeconomics and Growth

Abstract: We show that economic downturns can "scar" consumers in the long-run. Having lived through times of high unemployment consumers remain pessimistic about the future financial situation and spend significantly less years later, controlling for income, wealth, and employment. Their actual future income is uncorrelated with past experiences. Due to experience-induced frugality, scarred consumers accumulate more wealth. Using a stochastic life-cycle model we show that the negative relationship between past downturns and consumption cannot arise from financial constraints, income scarring, or unemployment scarring. Our results suggest a novel micro-foundation of fluctuations in aggregate demand and imply long-run effects of macroeconomic shocks.

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Bibliographic Reference

Malmendier, U and Shen, L. 2020. 'Scarred Consumption'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.