Toshiaki ShojiBack to index

  • Going Cashless: Evidence from Japan’s Point Reward Program


    In October 2019, the Japanese government started a unique program that offered points (discounts) for cashless payments. Using credit card transaction data, we compare credit card usage at restaurants that participated in this program and those that did not. Our main findings are as follows. First, the number of card users was 9- 12 percent higher in participating than in non-participating restaurants. Second, the positive impact of the program on the number of card users persisted even after the program ended in June 2020, indicating that the program had a lasting effect to promote cashless payments. Third, the impact of the program was significantly larger at restaurants that started accepting credit cards more recently, since the share of cash users at those restaurants was larger just before the program started. Finally, two-thirds of the difference between participating and non-participating restaurants disappeared during the first surge of COVID-19 in April 2020, suggesting that customers switched from cash to cashless payments to reduce the risk of infection both at participating and non-participating restaurants, but the extent to which customers switched was larger at non-participating restaurants with a larger share of cash users just before the pandemic.



    The share of payments using cashless methods is much lower in Japan than many other countries. BIS statistics, for example, show that total payments via cashless means such as credit cards, debit cards, and e-money in Japan amounted to 74 trillion yen or 24 percent of household final consumption expenditure in 2018. This percentage is considerably lower than the 40 percent or more in other developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Singapore. The social cost of relying on cash payments is substantial. For instance, using data for several European countries, Schmiedel et al. (2012) show that the unit cost of cash payments is higher than that of debit card payments. In addition, Rogoff (2015) argues that cash makes transactions anonymous, which potentially facilitates underground or illegal activities and leads to law-enforcement costs.


  • Search and Matching in Rental Housing Market   


    This paper builds up a model for a rental housing market. With a search and matching friction in a rental housing market, a new house entry is endogenized according to a business cycle. A price negotiation happens only when owner and tenant newly match and make a contract for a rental price. After making a contract, a rental price is fixed until the contract ends. Simulations show that variations of a price and a market tightness change according to a search friction in a housing market, a speed of a housing cycle, a bargaining power between owner and tenant for a price setting. An extensive margin effect brought by a housing entry well contributes to a price variation and this effect significantly changes by parameters.  


    Former studies, such as Wheaton (1990), focus on a search behavior in a housing market and show advantage of a search model to explain a housing market.
    Non-homeownership rates are at nontrivial level for a business cycle analysis across countries. In Japan, Statistics Bureau of Japan (2018) shows that a non-homeownership rate keep about 40 percent for many years. Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that the proportion of Australian households renting their home is 32 percent in 2017–18. In the U.S., the Census Bureau releases national non-homeownership rates and it is about 35 percent in the last few years. As well as buying and selling houses, a leasing house behavior can contribute to a business cycle.  




  • Product Cycle and Prices: a Search Foundation


    This paper develops a price model with a product cycle. Through a frictional product market with search and matching frictions, an endogenous product cycle is accompanied with a price cycle where a price for a new good and a price for an existing good are set in a different manner. This model nests a New Keynesian Phillips curve with the Calvo's price adjustment as a special case and generates several new phenomena. Our simple model captures observed facts in Japanese product level data such as the pro-cyclicality among product entry, demand, and price. In a general equilibrium model, an endogenous product entry increases variation of the inflation rate by 20 percent in Japan. This number increases to 72 percent with a price discounting after a first price.


    "We have all visited several stores to check prices and/or to find the right item or the right size. Similarly, it can take time and effort for a worker to find a suitable job with suitable pay and for employers to receive and evaluate applications for job openings. Search theory explores the workings of markets once facts such as these are incorporated into the analysis. Adequate analysis of market frictions needs to consider how reactions to frictions change the overall economic environment: not only do frictions change incentives for buyers and sellers, but the responses to the changed incentives also alter the economic environment for all the participants in the market. Because of these feedback effects, seemingly small frictions can have large effects on outcomes."


    Peter Diamond