Compared to the U.S. national accounts, the Japanese accounts understate consumption and government spending, and therefore overstate the national saving rate. Recently, Hayashi has recalculated Japan's national saving according to the American Department of Commerce definition and found that from the mid-1970s until today, Japan's national saving rate is nearly halved. In this paper, we argue that Hayashi's adjustments to the Japanese income accounts are exaggerated, and present measures of Japanese and U.S. private saving that are immune from national income accounting biases. Our saving measures are constructed from the balance sheets of the household sectors in the United States and Japan. Far from being equal, we find that the two country gap in saving rates in the early-1980s has averaged between 15 and 30 percentage points, depending on the measure.
Views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bank of Japan or Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies.