Effects of Aspirations and Habits on the Distribution of Wealth

Authors: Jordi Caballé and Ana I. Moro-Egido

Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Vol. 116, No 4, 1012-1043, January, 2014

We analyze how the introduction of habits and aspirations affects the distribution of wealth when the labor productivity of individuals is subject to idiosyncratic shocks and when bequests arise from a joy-of-giving motive. In the presence of either bequests or aspirations, labor income shocks are transmitted intergenerationally, and this transmission, together with contemporaneous shocks, determines the distribution of wealth. We show that the introduction of aspirations (habits) decreases (increases) the average wealth, and increases (decreases) both its intragenerational variability and the degree of intergenerational mobility. Therefore, a distinction between aspirations and habits is relevant because they involve different implications for the distribution of wealth.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona School of Economics Working Paper 352