We show that incorporating consumption commitments into a standard model of precautionary saving can complicate the usual relationship between risk and consumption. In particular, we present a model where the presence of plausible adjustment costs can cause a mean-preserving increase in unemployment risk to lead to increased consumption. The predictions of this model are consistent with empirical evidence from dual-earning couples. Couples who share an occupation face increased risk as their unemployment shocks are more highly correlated. Such couples spend more on owner-occupied housing than other couples, spend no more on rent, and are more likely to rent than own. This pattern is strongest when the household faces higher moving costs, or when unemployment insurance provides a less generous safety net.
Commitment, Risk and Consumption: Do Birds of a Feather Have Bigger Nests? with Stephen Shore, Review of Economics and Statistics vol . 92, number 2 (May 2010), pp 408-424 (PDF)