Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 15 No. 3 (Summer 2001)


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The Life-Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving

Article Citation

Browning, Martin, and Thomas F. Crossley. 2001. "The Life-Cycle Model of Consumption and Saving." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 15(3): 3-22.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.15.3.3


A central implication of life-cycle models is that agents smooth consumption. We review the empirical evidence on smoothing at frequencies from within the year up to across a lifetime. We find that life-cycle models--particular those which incorporate realistic features of markets and goods--have more empirical successes than failures. We also show that some apparent deviations from theoretical predictions imply very small welfare losses for agents. Finally, we emphasize that the coherence of life-cycle models imposes an important discipline when incorporating new features into models.

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Browning, Martin (Inst of Econ, U Copenhagen and Inst of Fiscal Studies, London)
Crossley, Thomas F. (York U and Ctr for Econ Policy Research, Australian National U)

JEL Classifications

D91: Intertemporal Consumer Choice; Life Cycle Models and Saving
E21: Macroeconomics: Consumption; Saving; Wealth


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