This thesis contains four independent essays studying the consequences of household heterogeneity for Macroeconomics.
The first chapter studies the implications of household heterogeneity for equilibrium prices. I break with the canonical assumptions of homothetic preferences and the law of one price to show how heterogeneity in consumption baskets and search for price bargains affects posted prices. Analytical results from search theory and empirical evidence from big data on households’ grocery transactions show that price distributions respond to the composition of buyers. In a quantitative heterogeneous agent model with endogenous price dispersion for multiple varieties, I find that the response of retailers to households’ search effort is quantitatively important to differentiate between inequality in expenditure and consumption. It more than doubles the direct effect of paying more or less given posted prices, which has been the focus of previous literature. Furthermore, I find that household heterogeneity helps to account for the empirical cyclicality of retail prices and markups in response to aggregate shocks, and has implications for the response of prices to redistributive policies.
In the second chapter, which is joint work with Annika Bacher and Philipp Grübener, we show how households with two members can insure themselves against the job loss of a primary earner through the labor force entry of a nonparticipating spouse. We document empirically that this margin is predominantly used by young households. In a two-member life cycle model with endogenous arrival rates, human capital accumulation, and extensive-margin labor supply, we explore how differences in labor market opportunities and asset holdings contribute to this pattern. Our findings suggest that the age difference is predominantly explained by better insurance through asset holdings for the old, while differences in arrival rates and human capital play a smaller role.
In the third chapter, which is joint work with Caterina Mendicino and Marcel Peruffo, we study differences in the exposure to bank distress along the income distribution. We develop a two-asset heterogeneous agent model with a financial sector and use this framework to show that banking sector losses disproportionately harm low-income households while rich households adjust their savings behavior to profit from fluctuations in asset prices. This is why welfare losses from bank distress are considerably more dispersed than consumption responses. We find the model-implied consumption responses to be in line with empirical evidence on the relationship between bank equity returns and consumption across households.
In the forth chapter, I study how wealth holdings can affect households’ incentives to form precise expectations about future inflation rates. I document empirically how the dispersion of expectations changes along the wealth distribution and develop a consumption-savings model with costly expectation formation to study implications for the effectiveness of forward guidance policies. I show endogenous expectation formation to significantly lower the effectiveness of forward guidance policies due to selection in which households are paying attention to news about inflation.
The event will be held in hybrid format, and will be streamed via Zoom.