Research Topics

Publications on Saving

There are 4 publications for Saving.
  • A Nonbehavioral Theory of Saving

    Working Paper No. 844 | July 2015

    We present a model where the saving rate of the household sector, especially households at the bottom of the income distribution, becomes the endogenous variable that adjusts in order for full employment to be maintained over time. An increase in income inequality and the current account deficit and a consolidation of the government budget lead to a decrease in the saving rate of the household sector. Such a process is unsustainable because it leads to an increase in the household debt-to-income ratio, and maintaining it depends on some sort of asset bubble. This framework allows us to better understand the factors that led to the Great Recession and the dilemma of a repeat of this kind of unsustainable process or secular stagnation. Sustainable growth requires a decrease in income inequality, an improvement in the external position, and a relaxation of the fiscal stance of the government.

  • Inequality and Household Finance during the Consumer Age

    Working Paper No. 752 | February 2013

    One might expect that rising US income inequality would reduce demand growth and create a drag on the economy because higher-income groups spend a smaller share of income. But during a quarter century of rising inequality, US growth and employment were reasonably strong, by historical standards, until the Great Recession. This paper analyzes this paradox by disaggregating household spending, income, saving, and debt between the bottom 95 percent and top 5 percent of the income distribution. We find that the top 5 percent did indeed spend a smaller share of income, but demand drag did not occur because the spending share of the bottom 95 percent rose, accompanied by a historic increase in borrowing. The unsustainable rise in household leverage concentrated in the bottom 95 percent ultimately spawned the Great Recession. The demand drag of rising inequality could be one explanation for the stagnant recovery in the recession’s aftermath.

    Associated Program:
    Barry Z. Cynamon Steven M. Fazzari

  • Money in Finance

    Working Paper No. 656 | March 2011

    This paper begins by defining, and distinguishing between, money and finance, and addresses alternative ways of financing spending. We next examine the role played by financial institutions (e.g., banks) in the provision of finance. The role of government as both regulator of private institutions and provider of finance is also discussed, and related topics such as liquidity and saving are explored. We conclude with a look at some of the new innovations in finance, and at the global financial crisis, which could be blamed on excessive financialization of the economy.

  • An Alternative View of Finance, Saving, Deficits, and Liquidity

    Working Paper No. 580 | October 2009

    This paper contrasts the orthodox approach with an alternative view on finance, saving, deficits, and liquidity. The conventional view on the cause of the current global financial crisis points first to excessive United States trade deficits that are supposed to have “soaked up” global savings. Worse, this policy was ultimately unsustainable because it was inevitable that lenders would stop the flow of dollars. Problems were compounded by the Federal Reserve’s pursuit of a low-interest-rate policy, which involved pumping liquidity into the markets and thereby fueling a real estate boom. Finally, with the world awash in dollars, a run on the dollar caused it to collapse. The Fed (and then the Treasury) had to come to the rescue of US banks, firms, and households. When asset prices plummeted, the financial crisis spread to much of the rest of the world. According to the conventional view, China, as the residual supplier of dollars, now holds the fate of the United States, and possibly the entire world, in its hands. Thus, it’s necessary for the United States to begin living within its means, by balancing its current account and (eventually) eliminating its budget deficit.

    I challenge every aspect of this interpretation. Our nation operates with a sovereign currency, one that is issued by a sovereign government that operates with a flexible exchange rate. As such, the government does not really borrow, nor can foreigners be the source of dollars. Rather, it is the US current account deficit that supplies the net dollar saving to the rest of the world, and the federal government budget deficit that supplies the net dollar saving to the nongovernment sector. Further, saving is never a source of finance; rather, private lending creates bank deposits to finance spending that generates income. Some of this income can be saved, so the second part of the saving decision concerns the form in which savings might be held—as liquid or illiquid assets. US current account deficits and federal budget deficits are sustainable, so the United States does not need to adopt austerity, nor does it need to look to the rest of the world for salvation. Rather, it needs to look to domestic fiscal stimulus strategies to resolve the crisis, and to a larger future role for government in helping to stabilize the economy.

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