Residential Rents and Price Rigidity: Micro structure and macro consequences
Why was the Japanese consumer price index for rents so stable even during the period of the housing bubble in the 1980s? To address this question, we use a unique micro price dataset which we have compiled from individual listings (or transactions) in a widely circulated real estate advertisement magazine. This dataset contains more than 700 thousand listings of housing rents over the last twenty years. We start from the analysis of microeconomic rigidity and then investigate its implications for aggregate price dynamics, closely following the empirical strategy proposed by Caballero and Engel (2007). We find that 90 percent of the units in our dataset had no change in rents per year, indicating that rent stickiness is three times as high as in the United States. We also find that the probability of rent adjustment depends little on the deviation of the actual rent from its target level, suggesting that rent adjustments are not state dependent but time dependent. These two results indicate that both the intensive and extensive margins of rent adjustments are small, resulting in a slow response of the CPI for rent to aggregate shocks. We show that the CPI inflation rate would have been higher by 1 percentage point during the bubble period, and lower by more than 1 percentage point during the period following the burst of the bubble, if Japanese housing rents were as exible as those in the United States.
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