We develop a theory of sweat equity—which is the value of business owners’ time and expenses to build customer bases, client lists, and other intangible assets. We discipline the theory using data from U.S. national accounts, business censuses, and brokered sales to estimate a value for sweat equity for the private business sector equal to 1.2 times U.S. GDP, which is roughly the value of fixed assets in use in these businesses. Although latent, the equity values are positively correlated with business incomes, ages, and standard measures of markups based on accounting data, but not with financial assets of owners or standard measures of business total factor productivity (TFP). We use our theory to show that abstracting from sweat activity leads to a significant understatement of the impacts of lowering tax rates on business incomes—on both the extensive and intensive margins. We also document large differences in the effective tax rates and the effects of tax changes for owner and employee labor inputs. Lower tax rates on owners results in increased self-employment and smaller firm sizes, whereas lower rates on employees has the opposite effects. Allowing for financial constraints and superstar firms does not overturn our main findings.
This paper examines the reliability of widely used surveys on U.S. businesses. We compare survey responses of business owners with administrative data and document large inconsistencies in business incomes, receipts, and the number of owners. We document problems due to nonrepresentative samples and measurement errors. Nonrepresentativeness is reflected in undersampling of owners with low incomes. Measurement errors arise because respondents do not refer to relevant documents and possibly because of framing issues. We discuss implications for statistics of interest, such as business valuations and returns. We conclude that predictions based on current survey data should be treated with caution.
Many countries are facing challenging fiscal financing issues as their populations age and the number of workers per retiree falls. Policymakers need transparent and robust analyses of alternative policies to deal with demographic changes. In this paper, we propose a simple framework that can easily be matched to aggregate data from the national accounts. We demonstrate the usefulness of our framework by comparing quantitative results for our aggregate model with those of a related model that includes within-age-cohort heterogeneity through productivity differences. When we assess proposals to switch from the current tax and transfer system in the United States to a mandatory saving-for-retirement system with no payroll taxation, we find that the aggregate predictions for the two models are close.
In this paper, we show that ignoring corporate intangible investments gives a distorted picture of the post-1990 U.S. economy. In particular, ignoring intangible investments in the late 1990s leads one to conclude that productivity growth was modest, corporate profits were low, and corporate investment was at moderate levels. In fact, the late 1990s was a boom period for productivity growth, corporate profits, and corporate investment.
Japan is facing the problem of how to finance retirement, health care, and long-term care expenditures as the population ages. This paper analyzes the impact of policy options intended to address this problem by employing a dynamic general equilibrium overlapping generations model, specifically parameterized to match both the macro- and microeconomic level data of Japan. We find that financing the costs of aging through gradual increases in the consumption tax rate delivers better macroeconomic performance and higher welfare for most individuals relative to other financing options, including raising social security contributions, debt financing, and a uniform increase in health care and long-term care copayments.
In this appendix, we describe the numerical methods used to compute an equilibrium in the economy with an inelastic labor supply and in the economy with an elastic labor supply (i.e., our benchmark economy). Although the economy with inelastically supplied labor is a special case of the benchmark economy, the equilibrium in the inelastic labor supply case is much easier to compute and is therefore treated separately. In each case, we start with the consumer's problem, assuming the consumer takes prices as given. We then show how the equilibrium prices are determined. To verify that the methods work well with our problem, we apply them to some related test problems that have known solutions.
We find that the welfare gains to being at the optimum quantity of debt rather than the current U.S. level are small, and, therefore, concerns regarding the high level of debt in the U.S. economy may be misplaced. This finding is based on a model of a large number of infinitely-lived households whose saving behavior is influenced by precautionary saving motives and borrowing constraints. This model incorporates a different role for government debt than is found in standard models, and it captures different cost-benefit trade-offs. On the benefit side, government debt enhances the liquidity of households by providing an additional means of smoothing consumption and by effectively loosening borrowing constraints. On the cost side, the implied taxes have adverse wealth distribution and incentive effects. In addition, government debt crowds out capital via higher interest rates and lowers per capita consumption.
Since it is the dominant paradigm of the business cycle and growth literatures, the stochastic growth model has been used to test the performance of alternative numerical methods. This paper applies the finite element method to this example. I show that the method is easy to apply and, for examples such as the stochastic growth method, gives accurate solutions within a second or two on a desktop computer. I also show how inequality constraints can be handled by redefining the optimization problem with penalty functions.
We estimate a dynamic general equilibrium model of the U.S. economy that includes an explicit household production sector. We use these estimates to investigate two issues. First, we analyze how well the model accounts for aggregate fluctuations. Second, we use the model to study the effects of fiscal policy. We find household production has a significant impact, and reject a nested specification in which changes in the home production technology do not matter for market variables. The model generates very different predictions for the effects of tax changes than similar models without home production.
This paper catalogues formulas that are useful for estimating dynamic linear economic models. We describe algorithms for computing equilibria of an economic model and for recursively computing a Gaussian likelihood function and its gradient with respect to parameters. We display an application to Rosen, Murphy, and Scheinkman's (1994) model of cattle cycles.
We estimate a dynamic general equilibrium model of the U.S. economy that includes an explicit household production sector and stochastic fiscal variables. We use our estimates to investigate two issues. First, we analyze how well the model accounts for aggregate fluctuations. We find that household production has a significant impact and reject a nested specification in which changes in the home production technology do not matter for market variables. Second, we study the effects of some simple fiscal policy experiments and show that the model generates different predictions for the effects of tax changes than similar models without home production.
This paper catalogues formulas that are useful for estimating dynamic linear economic models. We describe algorithms for computing equilibria of an economic model and for recursively computing a Gaussian likelihood function and its gradient with respect to parameters. We apply these methods to several example economies.
We ask what fraction of the variation in incomes across countries can be accounted for by investment distortions. In our neoclassical growth model the relative price of investment to consumption is a good measure of the distortions. Using data on relative prices we estimate a stochastic process for distortions and compare the resulting variance of incomes in the model to that in the data. We find that the variation of incomes in the model is roughly 4/5 of the variability of incomes in the data. Our model does well in accounting for 6 key regularities on income and investment in the data.
The paper itself is followed by three appendices: Appendix 1 describing the log-likelihood function, Appendix 2 describing the construction of labor share of income associated with the production of consumption and investment goods, and the Data Appendix.
We construct a quantitative equilibrium model with price setting and use it to ask whether with staggered price setting monetary shocks can generate business cycle fluctuations. These fluctuations include persistent output fluctuations along with the other defining features of business cycles, like volatile investment and smooth consumption. We assume that prices are exogenously sticky for a short period of time. Persistent output fluctuations require endogenous price stickiness in the sense that firms choose not to change prices very much when they can do so. We find that for a wide range of parameter values the amount of endogenous stickiness is small. As a result, we find that in a standard quantitative business cycle model staggered price setting, by itself, does not generate business cycle fluctuations.
The central puzzle in international business cycles is that fluctuations in real exchange rates are volatile and persistent. We quantity the popular story for real exchange rate fluctuations: they are generated by monetary shocks interacting with sticky goods prices. If prices are held fixed for at least one year, risk aversion is high, and preferences are separable in leisure, then real exchange rates generated by the model are as volatile as in the data and quite persistent, but less so than in the data. The main discrepancy between the model and the data, the consumption—real exchange rate anomaly, is that the model generates a high correlation between real exchange rates and the ratio of consumption across countries, while the data show no clear pattern between these variables.
The conventional wisdom is that monetary shocks interact with sticky goods prices to generate the observed volatility and persistence in real exchange rates. We investigate this conventional wisdom in a quantitative model with sticky prices. We find that with preferences as in the real business cycle literature, irrespective of the length of price stickiness, the model necessarily produces only a fraction of the volatility in exchange rates seen in the data. With preferences which are separable in leisure, the model can produce the observed volatility in exchange rates. We also show that long stickiness is necessary to generate the observed persistence. In addition, we show that making asset markets incomplete does not measurably increase either the volatility or persistence of real exchange rates.
I argue that low-frequency movements in U.S. base velocity are well explained by standard models of money demand. The model of Gordon, Leeper, and Zha is not standard because they assume a very high interest elasticity. The positive conclusion that they reach about the model’s ability to mimic movements in velocity necessarily implies that predicted movements in interest rates are too smooth.
This chapter reviews the literature that tries to explain the disparity and variation of GDP per worker and GDP per capita across countries and across time. There are many potential explanations for the different patterns of development across countries, including differences in luck, raw materials, geography, preferences, and economic policies. We focus on differences in economic policies and ask to what extent can differences in policies across countries account for the observed variability in income levels and their growth rates. We review estimates for a wide range of policy variables. In many cases, the magnitude of the estimates is under debate. Estimates found by running cross-sectional growth regressions are sensitive to which variables are included as explanatory variables. Estimates found using quantitative theory depend in critical ways on values of parameters and measures of factor inputs for which there is little consensus. In this chapter, we review the ongoing debates of the literature and the progress that has been made thus far.
By the 1970s, quid pro quo policy, which requires multinational firms to transfer technology in return for market access, had become a common practice in many developing countries. While many countries have subsequently liberalized quid pro quo requirements, China continues to follow the policy. In this paper, we incorporate quid pro quo policy into a multicountry dynamic general equilibrium model, using microevidence from Chinese patents to motivate key assumptions about the terms of the technology transfer deals and macroevidence on China’s inward foreign direct investment (FDI) to estimate key model parameters. We then use the model to quantify the impact of China’s quid pro quo policy and show that it has had a significant impact on global innovation and welfare.