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How does housing wealth affect household consumption? Evidence from macro-data with special implications for China

Cheng Li () and Ying Zhang

China Economic Review, 2021, vol. 69, issue C

Abstract: Thanks to four-decade spectacular economic growth, China's households have been accumulating a stockpile of wealth. In such a context, further concerns have been raised about the relationship between wealth accumulation and improvement of economic well-being, mainly through consumption. The issue becomes even more important when considering the challenges facing China in recent years, which can be characterized by a mix of increasingly leveraged households, escalating housing price, sluggish consumption, slowing economic expansion, trade frictions with the United States, and the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting economic difficulties. With that background in mind, this paper first provides international evidence on the relationship between household consumption and wealth, especially in the form of houses. Drawing on a panel of aggregate data for fourteen countries including China, we find that household consumption positively responds to changes in housing wealth, and this link is further affected by different levels of government spending and financial development. We next relate the international evidence to the case of China, with the focus on some recent policy issues over housing regulations and consumption promotion. Importantly, as the evidence and underlying theories suggest, housing wealth-consumption association does not follow a simplistic pattern, and thus, multiple policy measures could and should be undertaken rather than merely curbing speculative activities in real estate exchanges and associated financial business.

Keywords: Housing wealth; Consumption; Household finance; Balance sheet (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: E21 R20 R30 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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DOI: 10.1016/j.chieco.2021.101655

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China Economic Review is currently edited by B.M. Fleisher, K. X. D. Huang, M.E. Lovely, Y. Wen, X. Zhang and X. Zhu

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