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Is the Discretionary Income Effect of Oil Price Shocks a Hoax?

Author

Listed:
  • Christiane Baumeister
  • Lutz Kilian
  • Xiaoqing Zhou

Abstract

The transmission of oil price shocks has been a question of central interest in macroeconomics since the 1970s. There has been renewed interest in this question after the large and persistent fall in the real price of oil in 2014–16. In the context of this debate, Ramey (2017) makes the striking claim that the existing literature on the transmission of oil price shocks is fundamentally confused about the question of how to quantify the effect of oil price shocks. In particular, she asserts that the discretionary income effect on private consumption, which plays a central role in contemporary accounts of the transmission of oil price shocks to the U.S. economy, makes no economic sense and has no economic foundation. Ramey suggests that the literature has too often confused the terms-of-trade effect with this discretionary income effect, and she makes the case that the effects of the oil price decline of 2014–16 on private consumption are smaller for a multitude of reasons than suggested by empirical models of the discretionary income effect. We review the main arguments in Ramey (2017) and show that none of her claims hold up to scrutiny. Our analysis highlights the theoretical basis of the discretionary income effect. We also discuss improved regression-based estimates of this effect that allow for changes in the dependence on oil and gasoline imports, and we highlight the fact that alternative estimates used by policymakers involve strong simplifying assumptions.

Suggested Citation

  • Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian & Xiaoqing Zhou, 2017. "Is the Discretionary Income Effect of Oil Price Shocks a Hoax?," Staff Working Papers 17-50, Bank of Canada.
  • Handle: RePEc:bca:bocawp:17-50
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Backus, David K. & Crucini, Mario J., 2000. "Oil prices and the terms of trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 185-213, February.
    2. Dhawan, Rajeev & Jeske, Karsten, 2008. "What determines the output drop after an energy price increase: Household or firm energy share?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 101(3), pages 202-205, December.
    3. Lutz Kilian, 2017. "The Impact of the Fracking Boom on Arab Oil Producers," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 6).
    4. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian, 2016. "Lower Oil Prices and the U.S. Economy: Is This Time Different?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 47(2 (Fall)), pages 287-357.
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    6. John Coglianese & Lucas W. Davis & Lutz Kilian & James H. Stock, 2017. "Anticipation, Tax Avoidance, and the Price Elasticity of Gasoline Demand," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(1), pages 1-15, January.
    7. Lutz Kilian, 2008. "The Economic Effects of Energy Price Shocks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 871-909, December.
    8. Lutz Kilian & Robert J. Vigfusson, 2017. "The Role of Oil Price Shocks in Causing U.S. Recessions," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 49(8), pages 1747-1776, December.
    9. Christiane Baumeister & Lutz Kilian, 2016. "Forty Years of Oil Price Fluctuations: Why the Price of Oil May Still Surprise Us," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(1), pages 139-160, Winter.
    10. Edelstein Paul & Kilian Lutz, 2007. "The Response of Business Fixed Investment to Changes in Energy Prices: A Test of Some Hypotheses about the Transmission of Energy Price Shocks," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-41, November.
    11. Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2008. "Are Shocks to the Terms of Trade Shocks to Productivity?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 804-819, October.
    12. Lutz Kilian & Cheolbeom Park, 2009. "The Impact Of Oil Price Shocks On The U.S. Stock Market," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1267-1287, November.
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    14. Rajeev Dhawan & Karsten Jeske, 2008. "Energy Price Shocks and the Macroeconomy: The Role of Consumer Durables," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 40(7), pages 1357-1377, October.
    15. Lutz Kilian & Daniel P. Murphy, 2014. "The Role Of Inventories And Speculative Trading In The Global Market For Crude Oil," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 29(3), pages 454-478, April.
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    17. repec:fip:fedgsq:y:2011:i:apr11 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Lucas W. Davis & Lutz Kilian, 2011. "The Allocative Cost of Price Ceilings in the U.S. Residential Market for Natural Gas," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(2), pages 212-241.
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    20. Lutz Kilian & Clara Vega, 2011. "Do Energy Prices Respond to U.S. Macroeconomic News? A Test of the Hypothesis of Predetermined Energy Prices," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 660-671, May.
    21. Lutz Kilian, 2009. "Not All Oil Price Shocks Are Alike: Disentangling Demand and Supply Shocks in the Crude Oil Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 1053-1069, June.
    22. Lutz Kilian & Yun Jung Kim, 2011. "How Reliable Are Local Projection Estimators of Impulse Responses?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1460-1466, November.
    23. Edelstein, Paul & Kilian, Lutz, 2009. "How sensitive are consumer expenditures to retail energy prices?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(6), pages 766-779, September.
    24. Sachs, Jeffrey, 1982. "The oil shocks and macroeconomic adjustment in the United States," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 243-248.
    25. Timothy J. Kehoe & Kim J. Ruhl, 2008. "Are Shocks to the Terms of Trade Shocks to Productivity?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 804-819, October.
    26. Leduc, Sylvain & Sill, Keith, 2004. "A quantitative analysis of oil-price shocks, systematic monetary policy, and economic downturns," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(4), pages 781-808, May.
    27. Sachs, Jeffrey, 1982. "The oil shocks and macroeconomic adjustment in the United States," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 243-248.
    28. Valerie A. Ramey & Daniel J. Vine, 2011. "Oil, Automobiles, and the U.S. Economy: How Much Have Things Really Changed?," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2010, Volume 25, pages 333-367 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kilian, Lutz, 2017. "How the Tight Oil Boom Has Changed Oil and Gasoline Markets," CEPR Discussion Papers 11876, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Econometric and statistical methods; International topics;

    JEL classification:

    • C51 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Model Construction and Estimation
    • Q43 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Energy and the Macroeconomy

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