August 2013

IZA DP No. 7576: Do House Prices Affect Consumption? A Re-assessment of the Wealth Hypothesis

published in: Economica, 2014, 81, 601-625.

This paper undertakes a comparison exercise to disentangle what drives the opposite findings regarding the effect of house prices on consumption documented in two papers using the same data set for the UK. On the one hand, Campbell and Cocco (2007) find that old owners are the most benefited by a house price increase and young renters the least, confirming the so-called wealth hypothesis. On the other hand, Attanasio, Blow, Hamilton, and Leicester (2009) find that house prices have the same impact on consumption across age groups, consistent with the so-called common factor hypothesis. First, we confirm that the findings in both papers can be reproduced. Second, we rule out a number of potential reasons related to the basic data construction, and provide evidence that the functional form (i.e., an Euler equation of consumption vs. a reduced form life-cycle model) and not data aggregation considerations (household level data vs. synthetic cohort data) may be at the root of the conflicting results in the two papers. Our findings revive the debate of whether there is an effect of house prices on consumption.