Alistair Macaulay

Dr Alistair Macaulay

Surrey Future Fellow
PhD Economics

Academic and research departments

School of Economics, Macroeconomics Group.



Alistair Macaulay, Wenting Song (2023)News Media, Inflation, and Sentiment, In: AEA Papers and Proceedings113pp. 172-176 American Economic Association

We study the relationship between media portrayals of inflation and consumer sentiment. Using tools from natural language processing, we uncover two competing narratives in US news coverage of inflation: the first relates inflation to financial variables, while the second relates inflation to real variables. As inflation rose in 2021, media increasingly emphasized the real economy. Linking inflation news to social network data from Twitter, we find that exposure to articles emphasizing the connection between inflation and the real economy significantly reduces sentiment, particularly in periods of high inflation. Shifting media narratives may therefore have contributed to declining consumer sentiment in 2021.

Andrew Haldane, Alistair Macaulay, Michael McMahon (2021)The 3 E’s of Central Bank Communication with the Public, In: Independence, Credibility, and Communication of Central Bankingpp. 267-330 Central Bank of Chile

In this paper we explore both theoretical and empirical evidence on communication with the general public. The model provides guidance for policymakers by highlighting some potentially important risks in communicating simply with a broader audience. In particular, in a model where trust and engagement are low, there are benefits to engaging a wider audience. But doing so risks ultimately lowering welfare unless guided by the 3 E’s of public communication: Explanation, Engagement and Education. Central banks have made great strides in all three, but numerous challenges remain.

Martin Ellison, Alistair Macaulay (2021)A rational inattention unemployment trap, In: Journal of economic dynamics & control131 Elsevier B.V

We show that introducing rational inattention into a model with uninsurable unemployment risk can generate multiple steady states, when the model with full information has a unique steady state. The model features persistent, heterogeneous labour market expectations, consistent with survey evidence. In a heterogeneous agent New Keynesian model, rational inattention to the future hiring rate generates three steady states: an unemployment trap with mild deflation and a low (but positive) job hiring rate, a middle steady state with moderate employment and inflation, and an ‘employment trap’ with high employment and inflation. Large mutations in the distribution of household beliefs can shift the economy between steady states.

Alistair Macaulay (2021)The attention trap: Rational inattention, inequality, and fiscal policy & nbsp, In: European economic review135 Elsevier

I show that if it is costly for households to process information about asset returns, a model with ex-ante identical households features persistent inequality. The steady state has a two-agent structure, with inequality maintained by a complementarity between attention and wealth: wealthy households have stronger incentives to pay attention to asset choices, and so earn higher returns than asset-poor households. Fiscal expansions are less powerful in this model than in a standard model with heterogeneous discount factors, because when an expansion causes poor households to start saving, they also increase their attention. They therefore earn higher interest rates, and so save even more, smoothing the windfall from the policy over a longer time period. I provide evidence for this increase in attention using cross-state variation in uncertainty about savings interest rates in the aftermath of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the US. The effects of fiscal policy therefore depend not just on the existence of inequality, but also on the cause of that inequality. (c) 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.