I argue that Farmer and Guo's one-sector real business cycle model with indeterminacy and sunspots fails empirically and that its failure is inherent in the logic of the model taken together with some simple labor market facts.
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.
Does the pattern of social connections between individuals matter for macroeconomic outcomes? If so, where do these differences come from and how large are their effects? Using network analysis tools, we explore how different social network structures affect technology diffusion and thereby a country's rate of growth. The correlation between high-diffusion networks and income is strongly positive. But when we use a model to isolate the effect of a change in social networks, the effect can be positive, negative, or zero. The reason is that networks diffuse ideas and disease. Low-diffusion networks have evolved in countries where disease is prevalent because limited connectivity protects residents from epidemics. But a low-diffusion network in a low-disease environment needlessly compromises the diffusion of good ideas. In general, social networks have evolved to fit their economic and epidemiological environment. Trying to change networks in one country to mimic those in a higher-income country may well be counterproductive.
Recently, several economies with interest rates close to zero have received large capital inflows while their central banks accumulated large foreign reserves. Concurrently, significant deviations from covered interest parity have appeared. We show that, with limited international arbitrage, a central bank's pursuit of an exchange rate policy at the ZLB can explain these facts. We provide a measure of the costs associated with this policy and show they can be sizable. Changes in external conditions that increase capital inflows are detrimental, even when they are beneficial away from the ZLB. Negative nominal rates and capital controls can reduce the costs.
Recent studies say prices change about every four months. Economists have interpreted this high frequency as evidence against the importance of sticky prices for the real effects of monetary policy. Theory implies that this interpretation is correct if most price changes are regular, but not if most are temporary, as in the data. Temporary changes have a striking feature: after such a change, the nominal price tends to return exactly to its preexisting level. We study versions of Calvo and menu cost models that replicate this feature. Both models predict that the degree of aggregate price stickiness is determined mostly by the frequency of regular price changes, not by the combined frequency of temporary and regular price changes. Since regular prices are sticky in the data, the models predict a substantial degree of aggregate price stickiness even though micro prices change frequently. In particular, the aggregate price level in our models is as sticky as in standard models in which micro prices change about once a year. In this sense, prices are sticky after all.
Search theory routinely assumes that decisions about the acceptance/rejection of job offers (and, hence, about labor market movements between jobs or across employment states) are made by individuals acting in isolation. In reality, the vast majority of workers are somewhat tied to their partners—in couples and families—and decisions are made jointly. This paper studies, from a theoretical viewpoint, the joint job-search and location problem of a household formed by a couple (e.g., husband and wife) who perfectly pools income. The objective of the exercise, very much in the spirit of standard search theory, is to characterize the reservation wage behavior of the couple and compare it to the single-agent search model in order to understand the ramifications of partnerships for individual labor market outcomes and wage dynamics. We focus on two main cases. First, when couples are risk averse and pool income, joint search yields new opportunities—similar to on-the-job search—relative to the single-agent search. Second, when the two spouses in a couple face job offers from multiple locations and a cost of living apart, joint search features new frictions and can lead to significantly worse outcomes than single-agent search.
In this paper, we construct a parsimonious overlapping-generations model of human capital accumulation and study its quantitative implications for the evolution of the U.S. wage distribution from 1970 to 2000. A key feature of the model is that individuals differ in their ability to accumulate human capital, which is the main source of wage inequality in this model. We examine the response of this model to skill-biased technical change (SBTC), which is modeled as an increase in the trend growth rate of the price of human capital starting in the early 1970s. The model displays behavior that is consistent with several important trends observed in the US data, including the rise in overall wage inequality; the fall and subsequent rise in the college premium, as well as the fact that this behavior was most pronounced for younger workers; the rise in within-group inequality; the stagnation in median wage growth; and the small rise in consumption inequality despite the large rise in wage inequality. We consider different scenarios regarding how individuals’ expectations evolve during SBTC. Specifically, we study the case where individuals immediately realize the advent of SBTC (perfect foresight), and the case where they initially underestimate the future growth of the price of human capital (pessimistic priors), but learn the truth in a Bayesian fashion over time. Lack of perfect foresight appears to have little effect on the main results of the paper. Overall, the model shows promise for explaining a diverse set of wage distribution trends observed since the 1970s in a unifying human capital framework.
We propose a model of delegated portfolio management with career concerns. Investors hire fund managers to invest their capital either in risky bonds or in riskless assets. Some managers have superior information on the default probability. Looking at the past performance, investors update beliefs on their managers and make firing decisions. This leads to career concerns which affect investment decisions, generating a positive or negative “reputational premium.” For example, when the default probability is high, the return on the risky bond has to be high to compensate the uninformed managers for the high risk of being fired. As the default probability changes over time, the reputational premium amplifies price volatility.
This paper uses an estimated structural model to argue that the option to move in and out of the parental home is an important insurance channel against labor market risk for youths who do not attend college. Using data from the NLSY97, I construct a new monthly panel of parent-youth coresidence outcomes and use it to document an empirical relationship between these movements and individual labor market events. The data is then used to estimate the parameters of a dynamic game between youths and their altruistic parents, featuring coresidence, labor supply and savings decisions. Parents can provide both monetary support through explicit financial transfers, and non-monetary support in the form of shared residence. To account for the data, two types of exogenous shocks are needed. Preference shocks are found to explain most of the cross-section of living arrangements, while labor market shocks account for individual movements in and out of the parental home. I use the model to show that coresidence is a valuable form of insurance, particularly for youths from poorer families. The option to live at home also helps to explain features of aggregate data for low-skilled young workers: their low savings rates and their relatively small consumption responses to labor market shocks. An important implication is that movements in and out of home can reduce the consumption smoothing benefits of social insurance programs.
This paper describes recent modifications to the mixed-frequency model vector autoregression (MF-VAR) constructed by Schorfheide and Song (2012). The changes to the model are restricted solely to the set of variables included in the model; all other aspects of the model remain unchanged. Forecast evaluations are conducted to gauge the accuracy of the revised model to standard benchmarks and the original model.
This paper develops a vector autoregression (VAR) for macroeconomic time series which are observed at mixed frequencies – quarterly and monthly. The mixed-frequency VAR is cast in state-space form and estimated with Bayesian methods under a Minnesota-style prior. Using a real-time data set, we generate and evaluate forecasts from the mixed-frequency VAR and compare them to forecasts from a VAR that is estimated based on data time-aggregated to quarterly frequency. We document how information that becomes available within the quarter improves the forecasts in real time.
This appendix contains seven sections. Section A reports results from running regressions of labor earnings on GDP using data from the PSID, for comparison with the results using HRS data in the body of the paper. Section B examines the relationship between family income, aggregate shocks, and risk preferences in the PSID. Section C gives technical details on the Markov Chain Monte Carlo estimation employed in table 1 of the paper and reports the complete parameter estimates for the regressions summarized in that table. Section D reports results when the relationship between earnings and aggregate shocks is estimated with individual-specific coecients rather than common coecients for each risk-tolerance group. Section E reports results comparable to table 1 of the paper and table D.1 of this appendix using only Social Security covered earnings instead of the
combination of Social Security and W-2 earnings. Section F reports robustness checks for tables 2 and 3 of the paper under alternative definitions of the household and the consumption and income variables. Section G reports robustness checks for tables 2 and 3 under an alternative definition of the leisure variable.
Three of the arguments made by Temin (2008) in his review of Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century are demonstrably wrong: that the treatment of the data in the volume is cursory; that the definition of great depressions is too general and, in particular, groups slow growth experiences in Latin America in the 1980s with far more severe great depressions in Europe in the 1930s; and that the book is an advertisement for the real business cycle methodology. Without these three arguments — which are the results of obvious conceptual and arithmetical errors, including copying the wrong column of data from a source — his review says little more than that he does not think it appropriate to apply our dynamic general equilibrium methodology to the study of great depressions, and he does not like the conclusion that we draw: that a successful model of a great depression needs to be able to account for the effects of government policy on productivity.
In 2008, Peter Temin wrote a review of the book that appeared in the Journal of Economic Literature. This staff report and accompanying data file are in response to the review.
Citation for review: Temin, Peter. 2008. "Real Business Cycle Views of the Great Depression and Recent Events: A Review of Timothy J. Kehoe and Edward C. Prescott's Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century." Journal of Economic Literature, 46 (3): 669-84. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.46.3.669
Working Papers are early drafts of academic research papers written by economists affiliated with the Minneapolis Fed. Working Papers are often preprints of articles that are published in scholarly journals. Many Working Papers later become Staff Reports. The Research Database is the official location for this series, but you can also find them on the Minneapolis Fed website, IDEAS/RePEc, and in EconLit.
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.
We examine the quantitative impact of policy-induced changes in innovative investment by firms on growth in aggregate productivity and output in a model that nests several of the canonical models in the literature. We isolate two statistics, the impact elasticity of aggregate productivity growth with respect to an increase in aggregate innovative investment and the degree of intertemporal knowledge spillovers in research, that play a key role in shaping the model’s predicted dynamic response of aggregate productivity, output, and welfare to a policy-induced change in the innovation intensity of the economy. Given estimates of these statistics, we find that there is only modest scope for increasing aggregate productivity and output over a 20-year horizon with uniform subsidies to firms’ investments in innovation of a reasonable magnitude, but the welfare gains from such a subsidy may be substantial.
In all markets, firms go through a process of creative destruction: entry, random growth and exit. In many of these markets there are also regulations that restrict entry, possibly distorting this process. We study the public interest rationale for entry taxes in a general equilibrium model with free entry and exit of firms in which firm dynamics are driven by reputation concerns. In our model firms can produce
high-quality output by making a costly but efficient initial unobservable investment. If buyers never learn about this investment, an extreme “lemons problem” develops, no firm invests, and the market shuts down. Learning introduces reputation incentives such that a fraction of entrants do invest. We show that, if the market operates with spot prices, entry taxes always enhance the role of reputation to induce investment, improving welfare despite the impact of these taxes on equilibrium prices and total production.
The U.S. Great Recession featured a large decline in output and labor, tighter financial conditions, and a large increase in firm growth dispersion. We build a model in which increased volatility at the firm level generates a downturn and worsened credit conditions. The key idea is that hiring inputs is risky because financial frictions limit firms' ability to insure against shocks. An increase in volatility induces firms to reduce their inputs to reduce such risk. Out model can generate most of the decline in output and labor in the Great Recession and the observed increase in firms' interest rate spreads.