Heterogeneous Household Finances and the Effect of Fiscal Policy

By Javier Andrés, José E. Boscá, Javier Ferri and Cristina Fuentes-Albero


This paper develops a model with heterogeneous households in terms of net worth and collaterizable assets. Using sample weights estimated from the PSID, we show that balance sheet heterogeneity is key to characterizing the aggregate effects of government spending along different dimensions. We find that: (i) the response of individual consumption to a government spending shock is negatively correlated with household’s net worth and also depends on her access to mortgage and non-mortgage credit, which implies that the size of the fiscal multiplier is sensitive to the distribution of household types; (ii) the response of aggregate employment is negatively correlated with the share of impatient households; as the weight of these households in total population increases firms rely more on adjustments in the intensive margin to meet the fiscal induced boost in aggregate demand, thus generating jobless recoveries; (iii) the output multiplier is positively correlated with wealth inequality; and (iv) while a government spending shock has a welfare cost for wealthy households, it delivers a welfare gain for constrained households.

A good reminder that the impact of fiscal policy is very heterogeneous, and that income is only a part of the equation.


2 Responses to Heterogeneous Household Finances and the Effect of Fiscal Policy

  1. This paper brings really interesting results.

    Just after skimming the paper I am wondering on:
    (iii) the output multiplier is positively correlated with wealth inequality

    Does the research imply something on the size of multiplier with respect to income inequality? Then, I think, we could relate to the literature on the fiscal policy during recession/expansion (e.g. Auerbach, Gorodnichenko 2012).

    And more interestingly, there are some cross-country estimates of multipliers and wealth inequality. One could check if the data show positive correlation, as shown in the paper.

  2. Indeed. It would be interesting studying if such cross country correlation exists. But I do not think that existing estimates of fiscal multipliers can be used for that. Perhaps it would be necessary to estimate these multipliers in a common empirical framework, and also to control for other differences across countries (financial, cyclical, budgetary, etc.).

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