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How do households respond to uncertainty shocks?

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  • Edward S. Knotek II
  • Shujaat Khan

Abstract

Economic disruptions generally coincide with heightened uncertainty. In the United States, uncertainty increased sharply with the recent housing market crash, financial crisis, deep recession, and uneven recovery. In July 2010 Congressional testimony, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke described conditions as "unusually uncertain." The uncertain landscape was also cited as a factor in the slow recovery from the 2001 recession, when the March 2003 Federal Open Market Committee statement highlighted the "unusually large uncertainties" at the time. ; Uncertainty is a standard feature of most macroeconomic models, in which consumers and firms make decisions today based on expectations of an unknown (and hence uncertain) future. But in light of real-world events, economists have begun to think more critically about the role of uncertainty in the economy. Recent research has allowed the degree of uncertainty to vary over time and examined how these fluctuations affect business activity. The results have been mixed thus far, with some authors finding that fluctuations in uncertainty are a key factor in the business cycle, while others have found little such evidence. ; Knotek and Khan take a similar approach in studying levels of uncertainty that can vary over time, but they focus on household responses to changes in uncertainty. Because uncertainty can take many forms, they consider two measures of uncertainty, one based on references to uncertainty in newspaper articles and another derived from the stock market. ; While economic theory predicts sudden, sharp pullbacks of household purchases following increases in uncertainty, the empirical results suggest that household spending reductions are modest and may only appear after a considerable time has passed. In addition, movements in uncertainty account for only a small portion of the total fluctuations in household spending. These results suggest that variations in the amount of uncertainty--at least as they are commonly captured--do not appear to be a key factor driving household spending decisions and, in turn, economic weakness.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward S. Knotek II & Shujaat Khan, 2011. "How do households respond to uncertainty shocks?," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Q II.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedker:y:2011:i:qii:n:v.96no.2
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    File URL: http://www.kansascityfed.org/publicat/econrev/pdf/11q2Knotek-Khan.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mehmet Balcilar & Riza Demirer & Rangan Gupta & Reneé van Eyden, 2016. "Effectiveness of Monetary Policy in the Euro Area: The Role of US Economic Policy Uncertainty," Working Papers 201620, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    2. Nicholas Bloom & Max Floetotto & Nir Jaimovich & Itay Saporta-Eksten & Stephen J. Terry, 2012. "Really Uncertain Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 18245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Kyle Jurado & Sydney C. Ludvigson & Serena Ng, 2015. "Measuring Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1177-1216, March.
    4. Panagiotis E. Petrakis & Dionysis G. Valsamis & Pantelis C. Kostis, 2014. "Uncertainty Shocks in Eurozone Periphery Countries and Germany," Cyprus Economic Policy Review, University of Cyprus, Economics Research Centre, vol. 8(2), pages 87-106, December.
    5. Marc Joëts & Valérie Mignon & Tovonony Razafindrabe, 2015. "Does the volatility of commodity prices reflect macroeconomic uncertainty?," EconomiX Working Papers 2015-7, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    6. repec:eee:jpolmo:v:39:y:2017:i:6:p:1052-1064 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Knut Are Aastveit & Gisle James Natvik & Sergio Sola, 2013. "Economic uncertainty and the effectiveness of monetary policy," Working Paper 2013/17, Norges Bank.
    8. Bijsterbosch, Martin & Guérin, Pierre, 2013. "Characterizing very high uncertainty episodes," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 121(2), pages 239-243.
    9. Popp, Aaron & Zhang, Fang, 2016. "The macroeconomic effects of uncertainty shocks: The role of the financial channel," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 319-349.
    10. Beetsma, Roel & Giuliodori, Massimo, 2012. "The changing macroeconomic response to stock market volatility shocks," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 281-293.
    11. Christian Grimme & Steffen Henzel & Elisabeth Wieland, 2014. "Inflation uncertainty revisited: a proposal for robust measurement," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 47(4), pages 1497-1523, December.
    12. Steffen Henzel & Malte Rengel, 2013. "Dimensions of macroeconomic uncertainty: A common factor analysis," ifo Working Paper Series 167, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
    13. Wensheng, Kang & Ratti, Ronald & Vespignani, Joaquin, 2017. "Impact of Global Uncertainty on the Global Economy and Large Developed and Developing Economies," MPRA Paper 82188, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Kang, Wensheng & Ratti, Ronald. A. & Vespignani, Joaquin, 2016. "Global uncertainty and the global economy: Decomposing the impact of uncertainty shocks," Working Papers 2016-01, University of Tasmania, Tasmanian School of Business and Economics.
    15. Christina Christou & Rangan Gupta, 2016. "Forecasting Equity Premium in a Panel of OECD Countries: The Role of Economic Policy Uncertainty," Working Papers 201622, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    16. Roman Horvath, 2012. "Do Confidence Indicators Help Predict Economic Activity? The Case of the Czech Republic," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 62(5), pages 398-412, November.
    17. Dragouni, Mina & Filis, George & Gavriilidis, Konstantinos & Santamaria, Daniel, 2016. "Sentiment, mood and outbound tourism demand," Annals of Tourism Research, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 80-96.
    18. repec:bla:ecinqu:v:55:y:2017:i:2:p:843-877 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Wensheng Kang & Ronald A. Ratti & Joaquin Vespignani, 2017. "The impact of global uncertainty on the global economy, and large developed and developing economies," CAMA Working Papers 2017-09, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    20. Christian Pierdzioch & Rangan Gupta, 2017. "Uncertainty and Forecasts of U.S. Recessions," Working Papers 201732, University of Pretoria, Department of Economics.
    21. Ferrari, Massimo, 2014. "The financial meltdown: a model with endogenous default probability," MPRA Paper 59419, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    22. Marta Lachowska, 2013. "Expenditure, Confidence, and Uncertainty: Identifying Shocks to Consumer Confidence Using Daily Data," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-197, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    23. repec:eee:intfor:v:34:y:2018:i:2:p:355-365 is not listed on IDEAS
    24. Gerunov, Anton, 2013. "Връзка Между Икономическите Очаквания И Стопанската Динамика В Ес-27
      [Linkages Between Expectations and Economic Dynamics in EU-27]
      ," MPRA Paper 68795, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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