Saving and the Accumulation of Wealth: Essays on Italian Household and Government Saving Behavior

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Two major issues have troubled economists in recent work on saving: First, what was the cause of the substantial decline in the saving rate of most industrialized countries over the past two decades, and second, why has the traditional life cycle theory of saving, which seemed to offer an acceptable explanation for aggregate saving patterns, produced unsatisfactory results when faced with macro data? Drawing heavily on Italian data, this book provides new explanations for both questions. For many years Italy had one of the highest saving rates of leading industrial countries, but the rate's decline in recent years has been more pronounced than in other countries. At the same time, Italy has combined an extremely generous social security and government transfer system with relatively less-developed capital markets. The simultaneous presence of these two features makes it possible to assess the impact on saving decisions of the growth in government and private transfers of capital market imperfections, both individually and in combination. This book offers original contributions on most of the significant aspects of saving and consumption behavior. It reveals new evidence on the relative importance of precautionary saving and the bequest motive; it provides further explanations for the increased tendency to save of younger consumers and the slow rate of wealth decumulation of the elderly. The controversial role of liquidity constraints is a recurrent theme; these are seen to shape many aspects of households' behavior, from the durable/non-durable tradeoff to the timing of intervivos transfers. The articles that make up this volume should be of interest to economists working to advance our knowledge of the determinants of personal consumption and saving patterns, the consequences of capital market imperfections and the relationships between fiscal policy and saving.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521032230
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2006
  • Pages: 428
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Table of Contents

List of contributors
List of figures
List of tables
Introduction 1
1 Why is Italy's saving rate so high? 23
2 Private saving and the government deficit in Italy 70
3 Do demographic changes explain the decline in the saving rate of Italian households? 106
4 Generational accounting. The case of Italy 128
5 Young households' saving and the life cycle of opportunities. Evidence from Japan and Italy 163
6 Dissaving by the elderly, transfer motives and liquidity constraints 188
7 Earnings uncertainty and precautionary saving 214
8 Risk sharing and precautionary saving 246
9 Saving and borrowing constraints 273
10 Durables and non-durables consumption: evidence from Italian household data 305
11 Intergenerational transfers and capital market imperfections. Evidence from a cross-section of Italian households 330
12 Bequests and saving for retirement. What impels the accumulation of wealth? 349
Methodological Appendix: the Bank of Italy's Survey of Household Income and Wealth 369
Statistical Appendix 387
Index 402
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