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House Prices, Local Demand, and Retail Prices

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  • Johannes Stroebel
  • Joseph Vavra

Abstract

We use detailed micro data to document a causal response of local retail prices to changes in local house prices, with elasticities of 15%-20% across housing booms and busts. Notably, these price responses are largest in zip codes with many homeowners, and non-existent in zip codes with mostly renters. We provide evidence that these retail price responses are driven by changes in markups rather than by changes in local costs. We then argue that markups rise with house prices, particularly in high homeownership locations, because greater housing wealth reduces homeowners' demand elasticity, and firms raise markups in response. Consistent with this explanation, shopping data confirms that house price changes affect the price sensitivity of homeowners, but not that of renters. Our evidence suggests a new source of markup variation in business cycle models.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Stroebel & Joseph Vavra, 2014. "House Prices, Local Demand, and Retail Prices," NBER Working Papers 20710, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20710
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • L16 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Industrial Organization and Macroeconomics; Macroeconomic Industrial Structure
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco
    • R3 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Real Estate Markets, Spatial Production Analysis, and Firm Location

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