Stock Market Returns and Consumption

by Marco Di Maggio, Amir Kermani, and Kaveh Majlesi

Overview — Using a unique dataset for the entire Swedish population, this study of household consumption in response to changes in capital gains and dividends shows that the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) out of capital gains for households in the top 50 percent of financial wealth distribution is relatively uniform and around 5 percent but is more than 10 percent for the bottom 50 percent. These results explain why the recent stock market rally ignited a spending splurge that is cutting into how much households save for rainy days.

Author Abstract

This paper employs Swedish data containing security level information on households' stock holdings to investigate how consumption responds to changes in stock market returns. We exploit households’ portfolio weights in previous years as an instrument for actual capital gains and dividends payments. We find that unrealized capital gains lead to a marginal propensity to consume (MPC) of 13 percent for the bottom 50% of the wealth distribution but a flat 5 percent for the rest of the distribution. We also find that households’ consumption is significantly more responsive to dividend payouts across all parts of the wealth distribution. Our findings are broadly consistent with near-rational behavior in which households optimize their consumption with respect to capital gains and dividends income as if they were separate sources of income.

Paper Information

  • Full Working Paper Text
  • Working Paper Publication Date: January 2018
  • HBS Working Paper Number: NBER Working Paper No. 24262
  • Faculty Unit(s): Finance