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The Inattentive Consumer: Sentiment and Expectations

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  • Rupal Kamdar

    (UC Berkeley)

Abstract

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.

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  • 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

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    Cited by:

    1. Olivier Coibion & Dimitris Georgarakos & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Maarten van Rooij, 2019. "How does consumption respond to news about inflation? Field evidence from a randomized control trial," DNB Working Papers 651, Netherlands Central Bank, Research Department.
    2. 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.
    3. Kilian, Lutz & Zhou, Xiaoqing, 2020. "Oil Prices, Gasoline Prices and Inflation Expectations: A New Model and New Facts," CEPR Discussion Papers 15168, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Mary A. Burke & Ali K. Ozdagli, 2013. "Household inflation expectations and consumer spending: evidence from panel data," Working Papers 13-25, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    5. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko & Michael Weber, 2019. "Monetary Policy Communications and their Effects on Household Inflation Expectations," NBER Working Papers 25482, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Mackowiak, Bartosz Adam & Matejka, Filip & Wiederholt, Mirko, 2020. "Rational Inattention: A Review," CEPR Discussion Papers 15408, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Suah, Jing Lian, 2020. "Uncertainty and Exchange Rates: Global Dynamics (Well, I Don't Quite Know Anymore)," MPRA Paper 109087, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. 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.
    9. Abildgren, Kim & Kuchler, Andreas, 2021. "Revisiting the inflation perception conundrum," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    10. Peter Andre & Carlo Pizzinelli & Christopher Roth & Johannes Wohlfart, 2019. "Subjective Models of the Macroeconomy: Evidence from Experts and Representative Samples," CESifo Working Paper Series 7850, CESifo.
    11. Brent Meyer & Brian Prescott & Xuguang Sheng, 2020. "The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Business Expectations," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2020-17, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

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