Representing Consumption and Saving without a Representative Consumer
Chapter in NBER book Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress (2014), Dale W. Jorgenson, J. Steven Landefeld, and Paul Schreyer, editors (p. 115 - 134)
The Great Recession confirmed a bedrock principle of modern consumption theory: It is impossible to explain aggregate spending behavior without knowledge of the underlying microeconomic distribution of circumstances and choices across households. National accounting frameworks augmented by "bottom up" measures that both (a) capture the microeconomic heterogeneity (in expenditures, income, assets, debt, and beliefs) in the population and (b) sum up to statistics that have a recognizable relationship to the aggregate totals that are already reasonably well measured could help researchers acquire such knowledge.
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