Macroeconomic policy

Paweł Kopiec, 06 December 2019

Research shows that individual spending behaviour is heterogeneous across households and that it depends on characteristics such as income and wealth. Using Italian data, this column shows that household heterogeneity plays a crucial role in the propagation of fiscal expenditure shocks. Household inequality gives rise to a rich set of new channels that propagate government expenditures shocks through consumer spending, which are related to households’ balance sheets and monetary-fiscal interactions. The values of the fiscal multiplier diverge from those predicted by the standard macroeconomic framework and the difference is particularly large at the zero lower bound.

Jiri Slacalek, 05 December 2019

Many economic models assume that households have up-to-date information. This column relaxes this assumption to see how this affects consumption at the household and aggregate level. A model that assumes that households only occasionally update their information about macroeconomic quantities better fits the micro and macro data, and can explain the fact that consumption reacts little to the announcement of a fiscal stimulus but substantially to the actual receipt of a stimulus payment.

Yi Huang, Ugo Panizza, Richard Varghese, 04 December 2019

Establishing the presence of a causal link from public debt to economic growth and investment has proved challenging. This column uses data for nearly 550,000 firms in 69 countries to show that government debt affects corporate investment by tightening the credit constraints faced by private firms. Higher levels of public debt increase the correlation between investment and cashflow for firms that are more likely to be credit constrained – i.e. unlisted, small, and young firms – but appear to have no effect on the correlation between cash and investment of listed, well-established, and large firms.

Francesco D'Acunto, Ulrike Malmendier, Michael Weber, 15 November 2019

Policymakers seek to manage inflation expectations, but we understand little about how households form and update their expectations of inflation. The column tests Lucas's conjecture that the price changes households observe, rather than all price changes, drive expectations. A measure of individual household consumption weighted by the frequency of purchase is a statistically and economically significant driver of households' expectations. This challenges the modelling assumptions that central bank policymakers currently make.

Fabrizio Zilibotti, Andreas Müller, Kjetil Storesletten, 12 November 2019

The growth of the US national debt during the Trump presidency is particularly remarkable given its overlap with a period of economic expansion. But in this regard if few others, the Trump administration is no outlier. This column challenges the claim that Republicans adhere to fiscal conservatism in debt policy. Instead, it shows that Republican administrations since WWII have been more prone to expand government debt than their Democratic counterparts. And broadly speaking, the same pattern emerges in a panel of OECD countries.  

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