June 1, 2009
This thesis presents analyses of households' decisions regarding housing and pension wealth accumulation, in forward-looking models. The first of three chapters on housing presents a model of housing demand over the life cycle, and examines its sensitivity to prices and borrowing constraints. Demand responses can be unusual: when the price of housing goes up, the demand for starter homes may increase if enough people 'downsize' their homes. The next chapter involves carefully matching a life cycle model of consumption and housing choices, to recent episodes in the U.K., and using this structure to understand why house prices and consumption growth are strongly positively correlated. The model provides a good match to data on home ownership and consumption growth. The analysis gives a firmer theoretical footing to the claim that wealth effects from house prices are unlikely to have been the main driver of the correlation with consumption growth. The third housing chapter presents a model in which the prices of two types of home are endogenous. A perfect foresight set up is used, and transitions between steady states following shocks to income and mortgage markets, are studied. The findings suggest that credit shocks are more promising than income shocks as a potential explanation of large house price fluctuations and housing transactions level that covary positively with prices. The final substantive chapter uses a difference-in-differences strategy to evaluate the effect on private pension coverage of a recent U.K. reform to private pensions and pension contribution limits The reform is seen to have had a positive effect on pension coverage for lower earners. This pattern is consistent with forward-looking responses to the financial incentives involved.