## E21 Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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How does the design of debt repayment schedules affect household borrowing? To answer this question, we exploit a Swedish policy reform that eliminated interest-only mortgages for loan-to-value ratios above 50%. We document substantial bunching at the threshold, leading to 5% lower borrowing. Wealthy borrowers drive the results, challenging credit constraints as the primary explanation. We develop a model to evaluate the mechanisms driving household behavior and find that much of the effect comes from households experiencing ongoing flow disutility to amortization payments. Our results indicate that mortgage contracts with low initial payments substantially increase household borrowing and lifetime interest costs.

This paper studies discrete time finite horizon life-cycle models with arbitrary discount functions and iso-elastic per period power utility with concavity parameter θ. We distinguish between the savings behavior of a sophisticated versus a naive agent. Although both agent types have identical preferences, they solve different utility maximization problems whenever the model is dynamically inconsistent. Pollak (1968) shows that the savings behavior of both agent types is nevertheless identical for logarithmic utility (θ = 1). We generalize this result by showing that the sophisticated agent saves in every period a greater fraction of her wealth than the naive agent if and only if θ ≥ 1. While this result goes through for model extensions that preserve linearity of the consumption policy function, it breaks down for non-linear model extensions.

We consider an additively time-separable life-cycle model for the family of power period utility functions u such that u0(c) = c−θ for resistance to inter-temporal substitution of θ > 0. The utility maximization problem over life-time consumption is dynamically inconsistent for almost all specifications of effective discount factors. Pollak (1968) shows that the savings behavior of a sophisticated agent and her naive counterpart is always identical for a logarithmic utility function (i.e., for θ = 1). As an extension of Pollak’s result we show that the sophisticated agent saves a greater (smaller) fraction of her wealth in every period than her naive counterpart whenever θ > 1 (θ < 1) irrespective of the specification of discount factors. We further show that this finding extends to an environment with risky returns and dynamically inconsistent Epstein-Zin-Weil preferences.

We characterize the optimal linear tax on capital in an Overlapping Generations model with two period lived households facing uninsurable idiosyncratic labor income risk. The Ramsey government internalizes the general equilibrium effects of private precautionary saving on factor prices and taxes capital unless the weight on future generations in the social welfare function is sufficiently high. For logarithmic utility a complete analytical solution of the Ramsey problem exhibits an optimal aggregate saving rate that is independent of income risk, whereas the optimal time-invariant tax on capital implementing this saving rate is increasing in income risk. The optimal saving rate is constant along the transition and its sign depends on the magnitude of risk and on the Pareto weight of future generations. If the Ramsey tax rate that maximizes steady state utility is positive, then implementing this tax rate permanently induces a Pareto-improving transition even if the initial equilibrium capital stock is below the golden rule.

Homeownership rates differ widely across European countries. We document that part of this variation is driven by differences in the fraction of adults co-residing with their parents. Comparing Germany and Italy, we show that in contrast to homeownership rates per household, homeownership rates per individual are very similar during the first part of the life cycle. To understand these patterns, we build an overlapping-generations model where individuals face uninsurable income risk and make consumption-saving and housing tenure decisions. We embed an explicit intergenerational link between children and parents to capture the three-way trade-off between owning, renting, and co-residing. Calibrating the model to Germany we explore the role of income profiles, housing policies, and the taste for independence and show that a combination of these factors goes a long way in explaining the differential life-cycle patterns of living arrangements between the two countries.

We study the redistributive effects of inflation combining administrative bank data with an information provision experiment during an episode of historic inflation. On average, households are well-informed about prevailing inflation and are concerned about its impact on their wealth; yet, while many households know about inflation eroding nominal assets, most are unaware of nominal-debt erosion. Once they receive information on the debt-erosion channel, households update upwards their beliefs about nominal debt and their own real net wealth. These changes in beliefs causally affect actual consumption and hypothetical debt decisions. Our findings suggest that real wealth mediates the sensitivity of consumption to inflation once households are aware of the wealth effects of inflation.

We estimate the transmission of the pandemic shock in 2020 to prices in the residential and commercial real estate market by causal machine learning, using new granular data at the municipal level for Germany. We exploit differences in the incidence of Covid infections or short-time work at the municipal level for identification. In contrast to evidence for other countries, we find that the pandemic had only temporary negative effects on rents for some real estate types and increased asset prices of real estate particularly in the top price segment of commercial real estate.

Homeownership rates differ widely across European countries. We document that part of this variation is driven by differences in the fraction of adults co-residing with their par-ents. Comparing Germany and Italy, we show that in contrast to homeownership rates per household, homeownership rates per individual are very similar during the first part of the life cycle. To understand these patterns, we build an overlapping-generations model where individuals face uninsurable income risk and make consumption-saving and housing tenure decisions. We embed an explicit intergenerational link between children and parents to cap-ture the three-way trade-off between owning, renting, and co-residing. Calibrating the model to Germany we explore the role of income profiles, housing policies, and the taste for inde-pendence and show that a combination of these factors goes a long way in explaining the differential life-cycle patterns of living arrangements between the two countries.

Retained earnings and foreign portfolio ownership: implications for the current account debate
(2023)

In some countries, a sizable fraction of savings is derived from corporate savings. Although larger, traded corporations are often co-owned by foreign portfolio investors, current international accounting standards allocate all corporate savings to the host country. This paper suggests a framework to correct for this misleading attribution and applies this concept to Germany. For the years 2012 to 2020, our corrections retrospectively reduce German savings and consequently the German current account surplus by, on average, €11.5bn annually. This amounts to approximately five percent of Germany’s average official current account surplus (€226.6bn) across these years.

This paper characterizes the stationary equilibrium of a continuous-time neoclassical production economy with capital accumulation in which households can insure against idiosyncratic income risk through long-term insurance contracts. Insurance companies operating in perfectly competitive markets can commit to future contractual obligations, whereas households cannot. For the case in which household labor productivity takes two values, one of which is zero, and where households have logutility we provide a complete analytical characterization of the optimal consumption insurance contract, the stationary consumption distribution and the equilibrium aggregate capital stock and interest rate. Under parameter restrictions, there is a unique stationary equilibrium with partial consumption insurance and a stationary consumption distribution that takes a truncated Pareto form. The unique equilibrium interest rate (capital stock) is strictly decreasing (increasing) in income risk. The paper provides an analytically tractable alternative to the standard incomplete markets general equilibrium model developed in Aiyagari (1994) by retaining its physical structure, but substituting the assumed incomplete asset markets structure with one in which limits to consumption insurance emerge endogenously, as in Krueger and Uhlig (2006).