RECENT RESEARCH HIGHLIGHTS
"Tell Me Something I Don't Already Know: Learning in Low and High-Inflation Settings"
NBER WP31485, CEPR DP18299, IZA DP16305
Using randomized control trials (RCTs) applied over time in different countries, we study how the economic environment affects how agents learn from new information. We show that as inflation has recently risen in advanced economies, both households and firms have become more attentive and informed about inflation, leading them to respond less to exogenously provided information about inflation and monetary policy. We also study the effects of RCTs in countries where inflation has been consistently high (Uruguay) and low (New Zealand) as well as what happens when the same agents are repeatedly provided information in both low- and high-inflation environments (Italy). Our results broadly support models in which inattention is an endogenous outcome that depends on the economic environment.
"The Effect of Macroeconomic Uncertainty on Firm Decisions"
Using a new survey of firms in New Zealand, we document how exogenous variation in the macroeconomic uncertainty perceived by firms affects their economic decisions. We use randomized information treatments that provide different types of information about the first and/or second moments of future economic growth to generate exogenous changes in the perceived macroeconomic uncertainty of some firms. The effects on their decisions relative to their initial plans as well as relative to an untreated control group are measured in a follow-up survey six months later. We find that as firms become more uncertain, they reduce their prices, employment, and investment, their sales decline, and they become less likely to invest in new technologies or open new facilities. These ex-post effects of uncertainty are similar to how firms say they would respond to higher uncertainty when asked hypothetical questions.
"Contracts and Firms' Inflation Expectations"
Review of Economics and Statistics, forthcoming.
We use novel survey data to study firms’ inventory contracts. We document facts about the usage of purchase and sale contracts. We find that firms purchase and sell inventory through three contractual arrangements: fixed price and quantity, fixed price only, and fixed quantity only. The former holds the largest share of contracts. The average duration of purchase contracts is not very different from the average duration of sale contracts. We then find that the upward bias in inflation expectations is a feature of firms that do not purchase or sell largely through contracts. Our findings are useful in the calibration of sticky price models.
"Do You Know That I Know You Know...? Higher Order Beliefs in Survey Data"
Quarterly Journal of Economics, (2021), 136, pp. 1387-1446.
We implement a new survey of firms, focusing on their higher-order macroeconomic expectations. The survey provides a novel set of stylized facts regarding the relationship between first-order and higher-order expectations of economic agents, including how they adjust their beliefs in response to a variety of information treatments and how these adjustments affect their economic decisions. We show how these facts can be used to calibrate key parameters of noisy-information models with infinite regress as well as to test predictions made by this class of models. The survey also quantifies cognitive limits of agents in the form of level-k thinking. We find little evidence that this departure from infinite regress helps reconcile the data and theory.
"Inflation Expectations A Policy Tool?"
Journal of International Economics. (2020), 124, pp. 1-27.
We assess whether central banks should use inflation expectations as a policy tool for stabilization purposes. We review recent work on how expectations of agents are formed and how they affect their economic decisions. Empirical evidence suggests that inflation expectations of households and firms affect their actions but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear, especially for firms. Two additional limitations prevent policy-makers from being able to actively manage inflation expectations. First, available surveys of firms’ expectations are systematically deficient, which can only be addressed through the creation of large, nationally representative surveys of firms. Second, neither households’ nor firms’ expectations respond much to monetary policy announcements in low-inflation environments. We provide suggestions for how monetary policy-makers can pierce this veil of inattention through new communication strategies. At this stage, the answer to the question of whether inflation expectations should be used as an active policy tool is “not yet”.
"Firms' Asset Holdings and Inflation Expectations"
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, (2020), 170, pp. 193-205.
This paper investigates the relationship between firms’ inflation expectations and their holdings of liquid assets. We implement a new quantitative survey of firms’ expectations about inflation in New Zealand. We find that firms that hold more shares of liquid assets systematically report lower inflation expectations. Moreover, we implement an experiment by providing firms new exogenous information about recent inflation dynamics. This experiment allows us to assess how firms respond to new information in terms of belief revisions and firm-level decisions.
"How Do Firms Form Their Expectations? New Survey Evidence,"
American Economic Review, (2018), 108, pp. 2671-2713.
We implement a new survey of firms’ macroeconomic beliefs in New Zealand and document a number of novel stylized facts from this survey. Despite nearly twenty five years under an inflation targeting regime, there is widespread dispersion in firms’ beliefs about both past and future macroeconomic conditions, especially inflation, with average beliefs about recent and past inflation being much higher than those of professional forecasters. Much of the dispersion in beliefs can be explained by firms’ incentives to collect and process information. Using experimental methods, we find that firms update their beliefs in a Bayesian manner when presented with new information about the economy and that changes in their beliefs affect their decisions ex-post. But few firms seem to think that inflation is most important to their business decisions and therefore they tend to devote few resources to collecting and processing information about inflation.
"Inflation Targeting Does Not Anchor Inflation Expectations: Evidence from Firms in New Zealand"
Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, (2015), Fall Issue, pp. 151-225.
Using a new survey of firm managers, we investigate whether inflation expectations in New Zealand are anchored or not. In spite of 25 years of inflation targeting by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, firm managers display little anchoring of such expectations. We document this finding along a number of dimensions. Managers are unaware of the identities of central bankers or of central banks’ objectives, and they are generally poorly informed about recent inflation dynamics. Their forecasts of future inflation reflect high levels of uncertainty and are extremely dispersed, and they are volatile along both short-run and long-run horizons. Similar results can be found for the United States using currently available surveys.