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Global imbalances and household savings: the role of wealth

Salotti, Simone (2008): Global imbalances and household savings: the role of wealth. Forthcoming in: Social Science Journal (2010)

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Abstract

Many claim that fluctuations in US private savings help to create and to sustain global imbalances because of their influence on the current account deficit. To test this claim, this paper investigates the determinants of aggregate household savings using a panel of 18 developed countries for the period 1980-2005. We weave two strands of literature: the first strand from consumer theory, considering specifically the `wealth effect', the second strand from aggregate private savings theory. The original contribution of this paper derives from the main explanatory variables of the household savings function: two measures of household wealth, the first a financial variable and the second a variable for tangible/housing stock. The salience of these variables has not been tested before. The model is then enriched with variables taken from the private savings literature. To find the best technique to estimate the long run savings function, unit root and cointegration tests are carried out, from which evidence of a cointegrating relationship is found. The group means FMOLS is used to estimate the model. The empirical evidence suggests effects consistent with theory: an increase in wealth negatively affects household savings. Furthermore, when important explanatory variables, such as government savings and population dependency ratios, are included in the model, tangible wealth becomes the only kind of wealth to (weakly and negatively) influence household savings in developed countries. In the US however, wealth does not seem to affect household savings negatively, it seems instead that government savings and population changes better explain the decline of savings during the past two decades. This finding provides additional evidence on the issue of global imbalances, and suggests that the recent booms of the stock and the real estate markets should not be blamed for the decline in US household and private savings.

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