Kerstin Westergren defends her thesis "Essays on Inflation Expectations, Monetary Policy and Tax Reform"


Kerstin Westergren defends her thesis "Essays on Inflation Expectations, Monetary Policy and Tax Reform" on September 9 at 15:15 in Lecture Hall 2 at Ekonomikum. Please note that the defence will be held both digitally via Zoom and in the lecture hall, but the number of seats in the lecture hall is limited.

Kerstin Westergren

The dissertation consists of three separate essays within macroeconomics. The essays focus on consumers’ choices and expectations, and how these are affected by policy actions. Each essay takes off from a theoretical framework which is applied and tested using Swedish data. The first two essays deal with inflation expectations; why consumptions’  expenditure patterns matter for their inflation expectations and how their inflation expectations are affected by the central bank’s interest rate announcement. The last essay instead studies the effect on the wealth distribution of changes in the tax system, via the consumers’ occupational choices and savings decisions.

Discussant is Professor Mirko Wiederholt, SciencesPo, Paris and Grading committee members are Professor Helena Svaleryd, Department of Economics, Uppsala University, Professor Paul Klein, Department of Economics, Stockholm University and Professor Johan Lyhagen, Department of Statistics, Uppsala University.

Advisors are Professor Nils Gottfries, Department of Economics, Uppsala University, Visiting researcher Daria Finocchiaro, Department of Economics, Uppsala University and Assistant Professor Stefan Pitschner, Department of Economics, Uppsala University.


Essay I: Why do consumers’ expenditure patterns matter for their inflation expectations? I propose a model of rational inattention where a consumer trades off paying attention between goods bought more or less frequently. For each good purchased, the consumer observes the rate of price change with an error that depends on the frequency at which the good is purchased. Goods bought less frequently are observed with a greater level of error. I apply a simple version of the model where the inflation index is decomposed into two sub-index components; one sub-index contains goods bought often, and the other contains goods that are not bought often. My results show that the consumer pays more attention to goods bought often. The model is able to match about 60% of the variation in the inflation expectations of the average Swedish household over the time period 2002-2017. A decomposition of the model shows that the consumer’s attention allocation trade-off between these two sub-index components is an important factor in the model’s ability to explain the variation in inflation expectations expressed by Swedish households.

Essay II: What is the effect of monetary policy announcements on inflation expectations? Using survey data of Swedish households’ inflation expectations over the time period 2003-2015, I examine this question using a two-stage least squares regression model. The announced changes are instrumented by a monetary policy surprise variable, obtained from high-frequency swap trade data. I find that the immediate effect of an announced increase in the policy rate on inflation expectations is significant and positive. This result may be interpreted as the policy announcement signaling the central bank’s private information on the direction of future inflation. Specifically, a division of the monetary policy surprise associated with each announcement as either a pure monetary policy surprise or an information surprise shows that the effect of an announced increase in the policy rate on inflation expectations is significant and positive only for the latter type of surprise.

Essay III (with Charlotte Paulie and Markus Ridder): For the past several decades, wealth inequality has increased in many countries. Do changes in the tax system contribute to these trends? Using a quantitative model, we examine the effect on wealth inequality of changing from a comprehensive to a dual tax system. We start with a standard open-economy incomplete-markets model, to which we add an entrepreneurial sector. The entrepreneurs in the model exploit the duality of the tax system after the reform by declaring income as capital (taxed at a flat rate) rather than labor income (taxed progressively). The model is parameterized to match the characteristics of the Swedish economy under dual taxation. In contrast to previous studies, we estimate the parameters of the stochastic process for entrepreneurial income using micro-data observations. We find that the introduction of a dual tax system increases wealth inequality and that the possibility of the entrepreneurs to declare income as capital plays an important role for this result. We also find that the level of aggregate capital and the share of entrepreneurs is higher in an economy with a dual tax system.

Download the thesis from Diva här

Read more about Kerstin on her personal web here

Last modified: 2021-08-27