Sentimental Business Cycles and the Protracted Great Recession
61 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2017 Last revised: 22 Aug 2018
Date Written: June 5, 2018
Using newly licensed individual-level data from Gallup between 2008 and 2017, this paper provides microeconomic evidence that sentiments about economic activity played an important role in amplifying and propagating the Great Recession. First, after controlling for aggregate shocks, a 1pp rise in county employment and housing price growth is associated with a 0.30sd and 0.67sd rise in perceptions about the current state of the economy and a 0.12pp and 0.27pp rise in perceptions the economy is improving. Second, exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the 2016 Presidential election, consumption of non-durable goods grew by 4.2% with a larger 10-12% increase among conservatives. The causal effect of sentiment on consumption is robust to three separate instrumental variables strategies: a state Bartik-like measure of gasoline price shocks, county fluctuations in daily temperature, and exposure to different housing price shocks through social networks. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the decline in sentiment can account for 34-68% of the decline in consumption during the Great Recession and an additional 14-43 months of delayed recovery.
Keywords: beliefs, business cycle, consumption, uncertainty, sentiments
JEL Classification: E20, E21, E32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation