Working Paper 341

Household Choices in Equilibrium

Robert A. Miller
Sumru Altug

Published July 1, 1987

This paper investigates the role of aggregate shocks on household consumption and labor supply. It posits, estimates and tests a model where the equilibrium behavior of agents sometimes leads them to locate on the boundary of their respective choices sets. The framework is rich enough to nest much previous empirical work on life cycle labor supply and consumption based asset pricing. It also yields a structural interpretation of wage regressions on unemployment. An important feature of our model is that markets are complete. Consequently, aggregate shocks only enter through two price sequences, namely real wages, and a sequence comprising weighted prices for future contingent consumption claims which are ultimately realized. We examine the properties of this latter sequence, whose elements may be represented as mappings from real wages and aggregate dividends.

Our empirical findings may be grouped into three. First, aggregate shocks play a significant role in determining the choices people make. Second, we reject for males some of the restrictions implicit in structural interpretations of wage unemployment regressions. Moreover when these restrictions are imposed, we find wages are countercyclical, but cannot reject the null hypothesis of no effect. Third, the null hypothesis that markets are complete is not invariably rejected. However, the orthogonality conditions associated with the asset pricing equation are rejected, even though our specification of preferences incorporates types of heterogeneity which violate the necessary conditions for aggregating to a representative agent formulation. Finally, we reject the cross-equation restrictions between the labor supply of spouses implied by equilibrium behavior.

Published In: Econometrica (Vol. 58, No. 3, May 1990, pp. 343-570)

Download Paper (pdf)