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The Inattentive Consumer: Sentiment and Expectations


  • Rupal Kamdar

    (UC Berkeley)


Expectations play a crucial role in macroeconomic models and are commonly assumed to be full-information rational. However, information is vast, costly to obtain, and difficult to understand. Using survey data, I show that consumer beliefs about economic variables are driven by a single component: sentiment. When consumers are "optimistic" (have positive sentiment), they expect the economy to expand but inflation to decline. This correlation stands in contrast to recent U.S. experience. I explain these stylized facts with a model of a rationally inattentive consumer who faces uncertainty about fundamentals. To economize on information costs, the consumer chooses to reduce the dimensionality of the problem and obtain a signal that is a linear combination of fundamentals. Optimal information gathering results in covariances of beliefs that differ from the underlying data-generating process, and in particular leads to countercyclical price beliefs. Thus, monetary policies that aim to stimulate the economy by raising inflation expectations can have counterproductive consequences.

Suggested Citation

  • Rupal Kamdar, 2019. "The Inattentive Consumer: Sentiment and Expectations," 2019 Meeting Papers 647, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed019:647

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Saten Kumar, 2018. "How Do Firms Form Their Expectations? New Survey Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(9), pages 2671-2713, September.
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    6. Rüdiger Bachmann & Tim O. Berg & Eric R. Sims, 2015. "Inflation Expectations and Readiness to Spend: Cross-Sectional Evidence," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 1-35, February.
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    8. Olivier Armantier & Wändi Bruine de Bruin & Giorgio Topa & Wilbert Klaauw & Basit Zafar, 2015. "Inflation Expectations And Behavior: Do Survey Respondents Act On Their Beliefs?," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56, pages 505-536, May.
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    10. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Rupal Kamdar, 2018. "The Formation of Expectations, Inflation, and the Phillips Curve," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 56(4), pages 1447-1491, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Coibion, Olivier & Georgarakos, Dimitris & Gorodnichenko, Yuriy & van Rooij, Maarten, 2019. "How Does Consumption Respond to News about Inflation? Field Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 12498, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Michael Weber & Michael Weber, 2019. "Monetary Policy Communications and their Effects on Household Inflation Expectations," CESifo Working Paper Series 7464, CESifo.
    3. Olivier Coibion & Dimitris Georgarakos & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Michael Weber, 2020. "Forward Guidance and Household Expectations," Working Papers 2020-07, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    4. Brent H. Meyer & Brian Prescott & Xuguang Simon Sheng, 2020. "The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Business Expectations," Working Papers 2020-006, The George Washington University, Department of Economics, H. O. Stekler Research Program on Forecasting.
    5. Peter Andre & Carlo Pizzinelli & Christopher Roth & Johannes Wohlfart, 2019. "Subjective Models of the Macroeconomy: Evidence from Experts and a Representative Sample," CESifo Working Paper Series 7850, CESifo.
    6. Anmol Bhandari & Jaroslav Borovicka & Paul Ho, 2019. "Survey Data and Subjective Beliefs in Business Cycle Models," Working Paper 19-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

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