There were three important changes in the United States economy during the 1980s. First, from 1982-90, the decade featured the longest consecutive stretch of positive quarterly output growth in United States history. Second, wage inequality expanded greatly as the wages of highly skilled workers grew markedly faster than the wages of less skilled workers (Katz and Murphy (1992)). Finally, consumption inequality also expanded as the consumption of highly skilled workers grew faster than that of less skilled workers (Attanasio and Davis (1994)). This paper argues that these three aspects of the United States economic experience can be interpreted as being part of an efficient response to a macroeconomic shock given the existence of a particular technological impediment to full insurance. I examine the properties of efficient allocations of risk in an economic environment in which the outside enforcement of risksharing arrangements is infinitely costly. In these allocations, relative productivity movements have effects on both the current and future distribution of consumption across individuals. If preferences over consumption and leisure are nonhomothetic, these changes in the allocation of consumption will generate persistent cycles in aggregate output that do not occur in efficient allocations when enforcement is costless.
We introduce, into a version of the Real Business Cycle model, mild increasing returns-to-scale. These increasing returns-to-scale occur as a consequence of sector specific externalities, that is externalities where the output of the consumption and investment sectors have external effects on the output of firms within their own sector. Keeping the production technologies for both sectors identical for expositional simplicity, we show that indeterminacy can easily occur for parameter values typically used in the real business cycle literature, and in contrast to some earlier literature on indeterminacies, for externalities mild enough so that labor demand curves are downward sloping.
The durable goods sector is much more interest sensitive than the non-durables sector, and these sectoral differences have important implications for monetary policy. In this paper, we perform VAR analysis of quarterly US data and find that a monetary policy innovation has a peak impact on durable expenditures that is roughly five times as large as its impact on non-durable expenditures. We then proceed to formulate and calibrate a two-sector dynamic general equilibrium model that roughly matches the impulse response functions of the data. We derive the social welfare function and show that the optimal monetary policy rule responds to sector-specific inflation rates and output gaps. We show that some commonlyprescribed policy rules perform poorly in terms of social welfare, especially rules that put a higher weight on inflation stabilization than on output gap stabilization. By contrast, it is interesting that certain rules that react only to aggregate variables, including aggregate output gap targeting and rules that respond to a weighted average of price and wage inflation, may yield a welfare level close to the optimum given a typical distribution of shocks.
This paper proposes a simple method for guiding researchers in developing quantitative models of economic fluctuations. We show that a large class of models, including models with various frictions, are equivalent to a prototype growth model with time varying wedges that, at least on face value, look like time-varying productivity, labor taxes, and capital income taxes. We label the time varying wedges as efficiency wedges, labor wedges, and investment wedges. We use data to measure these wedges and then feed them back into the prototype growth model. We then assess the fraction of fluctuations accounted for by these wedges during the great depressions of the 1930s in the United States, Germany, and Canada. We find that the efficiency and labor wedges in combination account for essentially all of the declines and subsequent recoveries. Investment wedge plays at best a minor role.
We add a nominal tax system to a sticky-price monetary business cycle model. When nominal interest income is taxed, the coefficient on inflation in a Taylor-type monetary policy rule must be significantly larger than one in order for the model economy to have a determinate rational expectations equilibrium. When depreciation is treated as a charge against taxable income, an even larger weight on inflation is required in the Taylor rule in order to obtain a determinate and stable equilibrium. These results have obvious implications for assessing the historical conduct of monetary policy.