Three Essays on Household Consumption Expenditures
thesisposted on 22.07.2021, 14:20 authored by Ahmad Zia WahdatAhmad Zia Wahdat
In my dissertation, I investigate the relationship between household consumption expenditures and transitory income shocks. In the first two essays, I pay particular attention to household expenditures in the aftermath of natural disasters, which are becoming more frequent and costly in the U.S. since 1980. Additionally, I study specialty farm producers' risk attitudes after an income shock due to natural disasters. Although the permanent income hypothesis predicts that households smooth consumption over their lifetimes, credit-constrained households may find consumption smoothing impractical. This dissertation brings forth evidence regarding heterogeneity in the effect of income shocks on household expenditures. First, I find that floods and hurricanes affect food-at-home (FAH) spending in different ways. The average 15-day decrease in FAH spending is about $2 in the 90 days after a flood and about $7 in the 30 days after a hurricane. In other words, floods have a prolonged effect and hurricanes have an immediate effect. I find that floods and hurricanes remain a threat to the FAH expenditures of vulnerable households, for instance, low-income households and households in coastal states. Second, Indiana specialty farm households reduce their monthly expenses of food and miscellaneous categories by about $119 and $280, respectively, after an income loss of 20%-32%. I also find that Indiana specialty producers are less willing to take financial risk after an income loss experience, i.e., they have a decreasing absolute risk aversion. Finally, in the third essay, I show that Australian households exhibit loss aversion in consumption expenditures which also means that they behave asymmetrically in their consumption response to income shocks. However, it is only working-age younger households that show asymmetric consumption behavior as opposed to the symmetric behavior of retirement-age households. The main message of these various findings is clear: after an income shock, the magnitude of change in consumption expenditures and the saliency of certain expenditure categories for adjustment are context- and population-dependent. Hence, income support policies and post-disaster relief programs may benefit from a better understanding of the consumption behavior of beneficiary population, to achieve maximum impact through better targeting.