How Economic Crises Affect Inflation Beliefs: Evidence from the COVID-19 Pandemic
This paper studies how inflation beliefs reported in the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations have evolved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that household inflation expectations responded slowly and mostly at the short-term horizon. In contrast, the data reveal immediate and unprecedented increases in individual inflation uncertainty and in inflation disagreement across respondents. We find evidence of a strong polarization in inflation beliefs and we show differences across demographic groups. Finally, we document a strong link, consistent with precautionary ...
How Have Households Used Their Stimulus Payments and How Would They Spend the Next?
In this post, we examine how households used economic impact payments, a large component of the CARES Act signed into law on March 27 that directed stimulus payments to many Americans to help offset the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. An important question in evaluating how much this part of the CARES Act stimulated the economy concerns what share of these payments households used for consumption—what economists call the marginal propensity to consume (MPC). There also is interest in learning the extent to which the payments contributed to the sharp increase in the U.S. ...
Amid the COVID-19 Outbreak, Consumers Temper Spending Outlook
The New York Fed’s Center for Microeconomic Data released results today from its April 2020 SCE Household Spending Survey, which provides information on consumers' experiences and expectations regarding household spending. These data have been collected every four months since December 2014 as part of our Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE). Given the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, the April survey, which was fielded between April 2 and 30, unsurprisingly shows a number of sharp changes in consumers’ spending behavior and outlook, which we review in this post.
What Are Consumers’ Inflation Expectations Telling Us Today?
The United States has experienced a considerable rise in inflation over the past year. In this post, we examine how consumers’ inflation expectations have responded to inflation during the pandemic period and to what extent this is different from the behavior of consumers’ expectations before the pandemic. We analyze two aspects of the response of consumers’ expectations to changing conditions. First, we examine by how much consumers revise their inflation expectations in response to inflation surprises. Second, we look at the pass-through of revisions in short-term inflation ...
Stimulus through Insurance: The Marginal Propensity to Repay Debt
Using detailed micro data, we document that households often use “stimulus” checks to pay down debt, especially those with low net wealth-to-income ratios. To rationalize these patterns, we introduce a borrowing price schedule into an otherwise standard incomplete markets model. Because interest rates rise with debt, borrowers have increasingly larger incentives to use an additional dollar to reduce debt service payments rather than consume. Using our calibrated model, we then study whether and how this marginal propensity to repay debt (MPRD) alters the aggregate implications of fiscal ...
Not Just “Stimulus” Checks: The Marginal Propensity to Repay Debt
Households frequently use stimulus checks to pay down existing debt. In this post, we discuss the empirical evidence on this marginal propensity to repay debt (MPRD), and we present new findings using the Survey of Consumer Expectations. We find that households with low net wealth-to-income ratios were more prone to use transfers from the CARES Act of March 2020 to pay down debt. We then show that standard models of consumption-saving behavior can be made consistent with these empirical findings if borrowers’ interest rates rise with debt. Our model suggests that fiscal policy may face a ...
Consumers’ Perspectives on the Recent Movements in Inflation
Inflation in the U.S. has experienced unusually large movements in the last few years, starting with a steep rise between the spring of 2021 and June 2022, followed by a relatively rapid decline over the past twelve months. This marks a stark departure from an extended period of low and stable inflation. Economists and policymakers have expressed differing views about which factors contributed to these large movements (as reported in the media here, here, here, and here), leading to fierce debates in policy circles, academic journals, and the press. We know little, however, about the ...
How Will the New Tax Law Affectt Homeowners in High Tax States? It Depends
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) introduces significant changes to the federal income tax code for individuals and businesses. Several provisions of the new tax law are particularly significant for the owner?occupied housing market. In this blog post, we compare the federal tax liability and the marginal after-tax cost of mortgage interest and property taxes under the old and new tax codes for a wide range of hypothetical recent home buyers in a high tax state. We find that impacts vary substantially along the income/home price distribution.
Mixed Impacts of the Federal Tax Reform on Consumer Expectations
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 changed the tax brackets, tax rates, credits and deductions for individuals and similarly altered corporate tax rates, deductions and exclusions. In this post, we examine whether the reform has shifted individuals’ expectations about their financial situation and the macroeconomic outlook. We also ask whether households have already started to adjust their behavior in line with their expectations. In order to answer these questions, we use novel data from a special module of the New York Fed’s Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE) fielded in February 2018 ...
New SCE Charts Include a Measure of Longer-Term Inflation Expectations
Today, the New York Fed introduces several new data series and interactive charts depicting findings from its Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE). The SCE is a representative, internet-based monthly survey of a rotating panel of about 1,300 household heads in the United States. Since January 2014, we have been reporting findings from our monthly survey on U.S. households’ views on inflation, household income and spending growth, their expectations about the housing and labor market, and a range of other expectations about the economy and outcomes for their own household. In addition to ...