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Why Are Households Saving so much During the Corona Recession?

Savings rates among European households have reached record levels during the Corona recession. We investigate three possible explanations for the increase in household savings: precautionary motivations induced by increased economic uncertainty, reduced consumption opportunities due to lockdown measures, and Ricardian Equivalence, i.e. increases in the expected future tax-burden of households driven by increases in government debt. To test these explanations, we compile a monthly panel of euro area countries from January 2019 to August 2020. Our findings indicate that the chief driver of the increase in household savings is supply: As governments restrict households’ opportunities to spend, households spend less. We estimate that going from no lockdown measures to that of Italy’s in March, would have resulted in the growth of Germany’s deposit to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio being 0.6 percentage points higher each month. This would be equivalent to the volume of deposits increasing by roughly 14.3 billion euros or 348 euros per house monthly. Demand effects, driven by either fears of unemployment or fear of infection from COVID-19, appear to only have a weak impact on household savings, whereas changes in government debt are unrelated or even negatively related to savings rates. The analysis suggests that there is some pent-up demand for consumption that may unravel after lockdown measures are abolished and may result in a significant increase in consumption in the late spring/early summer 2021.

01. February 2021

Authors Reint E. Gropp William McShane

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