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How Do Consumers Adapt to a New Environment in their economic forecasting? Evidence from the German Reunification

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  • Goldfayn-Frank, Olga
  • Wohlfart, Johannes

Abstract

Exploiting the natural experiment of the German reunification, we examine how consumers adapt to a new environment in their macroeconomic forecasting. We document that East Germans expect higher inflation and make larger forecast errors than West Germans even decades after reunification. Differences in consumption baskets, financial literacy, risk aversion or trust in the central bank cannot fully account for these patterns. We find most support for the explanation that East Germans, who were used to a strong norm of zero inflation, persistently overadjusted the level of their expectations in the face of the initial inflation shock in reunified Germany. Our findings suggest that large changes in the economic environment can permanently impede people's ability to form accurate macroeconomic expectations, with an important role for the interaction of old norms and new experiences around the event.

Suggested Citation

  • Goldfayn-Frank, Olga & Wohlfart, Johannes, 2019. "How Do Consumers Adapt to a New Environment in their economic forecasting? Evidence from the German Reunification," VfS Annual Conference 2019 (Leipzig): 30 Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall - Democracy and Market Economy 203668, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc19:203668
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Expectation Formation; Inflation; Natural Experiment; German Reunification; Macroeconomic Experiences;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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