Publication Date

June 2006


[Excerpt] Saving is the portion of national output that is not consumed and represents resources that can be used to increase, replace, or improve the nation’s capital stock. The U.S. net national saving rate reached a post-war peak of 12.4% in 1965 and has then trended downward since to a low of 0.8% in 2005. Many analysts claim that saving is too low. Among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the United States has the third lowest saving rate. Survey evidence suggests that people know why they should save, but many don’t save, especially lower-income individuals and families. Several reasons have been offered to explain the declining personal saving rate and the relatively high proportion of individuals and families that do not save. Economic reasons start from the premise that individuals and families are rational and make optimal decisions about consumption and saving throughout the life course. Low saving rates are then explained by economic disincentives induced by government policy or by life cycle changes in the propensity to save. Behavioral reasons start from the premise that individuals and families do not always make optimal decisions regarding consumption and saving.


Suggested Citation
Hungerford, T. L. (2006). Saving incentives: What may work, what may not (RL33482) [Electronic version]. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service.