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The Inattentive Consumer: Sentiment and Expectations

Rupal Kamdar

No 647, 2019 Meeting Papers from Society for Economic Dynamics

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.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac
Date: 2019
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