This discussion paper led to a publication in the 'European Economic Review'. Vol. 79, pages 214-233.
We investigate the cyclicality of the private savings to GDP ratio for a panel of 19 OECD countries over the period 1971-2009. We find robust evidence that the private savings ratio is countercyclical. Three theories unambiguously predict a higher private savings ratio during recessions: a Ricardian offset effect, the presence of credit constraints, and precautionary savings. We find evidence only for the latter theory. Our estimations take into account a large number of econometric complications: persistence in the savings ratio, endogeneity of the regressors, cross-country parameter heterogeneity, cross-sectional dependence, stationarity issues, omitted variables, and instrument strength.