Housing, Monetary Policy, and the Recovery
affiliation not provided to SSRN
Ethan S. Harris
Bank of America
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; NBER
Kenneth D. West
University of Wisconsin - Madison - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
September 5, 2012
Chicago Booth Research Paper No. 12-16
While the economy shows signs of strength, the recovery remains tepid relative to economic upswings following deep recessions of the past. This weakness has occurred despite an aggressive monetary response by the Federal Reserve which has adopted even unconventional tools to reduce long term interest rates. A variety of factors have been blamed for the tepid recovery, including the financial crisis of 2008, uncertainty over policy, and high levels of indebtedness.
In this report, we focus on weakness in housing. Our analysis makes two broad points. First, weakness in housing and residential investment is a main impediment to a robust recovery. Second, problems related to housing have affected the transmission of monetary policy. More specifically, the unprecedented decline in house prices and residential investment has introduced headwinds that may require a more aggressive monetary response than in normal downturns. Further, problems related to housing markets may reduce the sensitivity of real economic activity to the interest rates that monetary policy can affect. Or in the parlance of textbook intermediate macroeconomics, housing problems have likely shifted the IS curve leftwards and steepened the slope of the curve by introducing a gap between policy rates and effective rates. For both of these reasons, problems related to housing introduce significant challenges to monetary policy-making.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 101
Date posted: May 11, 2012 ; Last revised: September 6, 2012