Consumption Responses to Permanent and Transitory Shocks to House Appreciation: Working Paper 2009-05

Working Paper
December 18, 2009

Juan Contreras and Joseph Nichols

We estimate the marginal propensity to consume (MPC) out of permanent and transitory shocks to house price appreciation. Besides borrowing constraints, we consider two different models under which those shocks may affect consumption. In the first one, we treat housing as a risky asset. In the second one, housing has a role as a consumption and as an investment good. In both, changes in the rate of house price appreciation may affect nonhousing consumption. Shocks to appreciation rates may happen when increases in future house prices are expected to differ from the current ones because heterogeneity, market failures or errors in expectations. We test the implications of those models empirically using the PSID’s imputed total consumption from food consumption and self-reported house values, and base our identification strategy on two sources of variation in the appreciation rate. The first source depends on the fact that home prices are far more cyclical in areas where the supply of housing is relatively inelastic, causing the permanent and the transitory changes in appreciation rates to vary significantly by area. The second source is households’ perceptions about which parts of shocks to appreciation rates are permanent or transitory. We model households’ self-reported rate of appreciation as an AR(1) process and use both the Hodrick-Prescott and the Kalman filter to separate households’ perceptions about permanent and transitory shocks to appreciation. Our results show that (1) consumption responses to house wealth shocks vary greatly by area and depend upon the area-specific levels of temporal persistence and variance of those shocks; (2) the overall MPC out of those shocks is 3.5%; (3) the MPC out of permanent shocks is between 3.4% and 9.1%; and (4) the MPC out of transitory shocks is between 0.5% and 3.3%.