Paul Gertler, Orie Shelef, Catherine Wolfram, and Alan Fuchs, "The Demand for Energy-Using Assets among the World's Rising Middle Classes" (October 2011) (Revised version published in the American Economic Review, 106(6): 1366-1401, June 2016.) Full Paper
We study household decisions to acquire energy-using assets in the presence of rising incomes. We develop a theoretical framework to characterize the effect of income growth on asset purchases when consumers face credit constraints. We use large and plausibly exogenous shocks to household income generated by the conditional-cash-transfer program in Mexico, Oportunidades, to show that asset acquisition is nonlinear, depends, as predicted in the presence of credit constraints, on the pace of income growth, and both effects are economically large among beneficiaries. Our results may help explain important worldwide trends in the relationship between energy use and income growth.