NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Precautionary Strategies and Household Saving

Joshua Aizenman, Eduardo Cavallo, Ilan Noy

NBER Working Paper No. 21019
Issued in March 2015
NBER Program(s):   IFM

Why do people save? A strand of the literature has emphasized the role of ‘precautionary’ motives; i.e., private agents save in order to mitigate unexpected future income shocks. An implication is that in countries faced with more macroeconomic volatility and risk, private saving should be higher. From the observable data, however, we find a negative correlation between risk and private saving in cross-country comparisons, particularly in developing countries. We provide a plausible explanation for the disconnect between precautionary-saving theory and the empirical evidence that is based on a model with a richer account for the various modes of ‘precautionary’ behavior by private agents, in cases where institutions are weaker and labor informality is prevalent. In such environments, household saving decisions are intertwined with firms’ investment decisions. As a result, the interaction between saving behavior, broadly construed, and aggregate risk and uncertainty, may be more complex than is frequently assumed.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21019

Published: Joshua Aizenman & Eduardo Cavallo & Ilan Noy, 2015. "Precautionary Strategies and Household Saving," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 26(5), pages 911-939, November. citation courtesy of

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