NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Representing Consumption and Saving Without A Representative Consumer

Christopher D. Carroll


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Measuring Economic Sustainability and Progress, Dale W. Jorgenson, J. Steven Landefeld, and Paul Schreyer, editors
Conference held August 6-8, 2012
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series Studies in Income and Wealth

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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