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.
We develop a new methodology to compute differences in the expected longevity of individuals who are in different socioeconomic groups at age 50. We deal with two main problems associated with the standard use of life expectancy: that people’s socioeconomic characteristics evolve over time and that there is a time trend that reduces mortality over time. Using HRS data for individuals from different cohorts, we estimate a hazard model for survival with time-varying stochastic endogenous covariates that yields the desired expected durations. We uncover an enormous amount of heterogeneity in expected longevities between individuals in different socioeconomic groups, albeit less than implied by a naive (static) use of socioeconomic characteristics. Our analysis allows us to decompose the longevity differentials into differences in health at age 50, differences in mortality conditional on health, and differences in the evolution of health with age. Remarkably, it is the latter that is the most important for most socioeconomic characteristics. For instance, education and wealth are health protecting but have little impact on two-year mortality rates conditional on health. Finally, we document an increasing time trend of all these differentials in the period 1992–2008, and a likely increase in the socioeconomic gradient in mortality rates in the near future. The mortality differences that we find have huge welfare implications that dwarf the differences in consumption accruing to people in different socioeconomic groups.
Building on the Merton (1974) and Leland (1994) structural models of credit risk, we develop a simple, transparent, and robust method for measuring the financial soundness of individual firms using data on their equity volatility. We use this method to retrace quantitatively the history of firms’ financial soundness during U.S. business cycles over most of the last century. We highlight three main findings. First, the three worst recessions between 1926 and 2012 coincided with insolvency crises, but other recessions did not. Second, fluctuations in asset volatility appear to drive variation in firms’ financial soundness. Finally, the financial soundness of financial firms largely resembles that of nonfinancial firms.
We study fiscal and monetary policy in a monetary union with the potential for rollover crises in sovereign debt markets. Member-country fiscal authorities lack commitment to repay their debt and choose fiscal policy independently. A common monetary authority chooses inflation for the union, also without commitment. We first describe the existence of a fiscal externality that arises in the presence of limited commitment and leads countries to over-borrow; this externality rationalizes the imposition of debt ceilings in a monetary union. We then investigate the impact of the composition of debt in a monetary union, that is the fraction of high-debt versus low-debt members, on the occurrence of self-fulfilling debt crises. We demonstrate that a high-debt country may be less vulnerable to crises and have higher welfare when it belongs to a union with an intermediate mix of high- and low-debt members, than one where all other members are low-debt. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that all countries should prefer a union with low-debt members, as such a union can credibly deliver low inflation. These findings shed new light on the criteria for an optimal currency area in the presence of rollover crises.
We use unique price data to study how retailers react to underlying cost changes. Temporary sales account for 95% of price changes in our data. Simple models would, therefore, suggest that temporary sales play a central role in price responses to cost shocks. We find, however, that, in response to a wholesale cost increase, the entire increase in retail prices comes through regular price increases. Sales actually respond temporarily in the opposite direction from regular prices, as though to conceal the price hike. Additional evidence from responses to commodity cost and local unemployment shocks, as well as broader evidence from BLS data reinforces these findings. We present institutional evidence that sales are complex contingent contracts, determined substantially in advance. We show theoretically that these institutional practices leave little money “on the table”: in a price-discrimination model of sales, dynamically adjusting the size of sales yields only a tiny increase in profits.
This paper constructs a dynamic model in which fiscal restrictions interact with government borrowing and default. The government faces fiscal constraints; it cannot adjust tax rates or impose lump-sum taxes on the private sector, but it can adjust public consumption and foreign debt. When foreign debt is sufficiently high, however, the government can choose to default to increase domestic public and private consumption by freeing up the resources used to pay the debt. Two types of defaults arise in this environment: fiscal defaults and aggregate defaults. Fiscal defaults occur because of the government's inability to raise tax revenues. Aggregate defaults occur even if the government could raise tax revenues; debt is simply too high to be sustainable. In a quantitative exercise calibrated to Greece, we find that our model can predict the recent default, but that increasing taxes would not have prevented it. In fact, increasing taxes would have made the recession deeper because of the distortionary effects of taxation.
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.
During the Great Recession, regions of the United States that experienced the largest declines in household debt also experienced the largest drops in consumption, employment, and wages. Employment declines were larger in the nontradable sector and for firms that were facing the worst credit conditions. Motivated by these findings, we develop a search and matching model with credit frictions that affect both consumers and firms. In the model, tighter debt constraints raise the cost of investing in new job vacancies and thus reduce worker job finding rates and employment. Two key features of our model, on-the-job human capital accumulation and consumer-side credit frictions, are critical to generating sizable drops in employment. On-the-job human capital accumulation makes the flows of benefits from posting vacancies long-lived and so greatly amplifies the sensitivity of such investments to credit frictions. Consumer-side credit frictions further magnify these effects by leading wages to fall only modestly. We show that the model reproduces well the salient cross-regional features of the U.S. data during the Great Recession.
This paper presents a model of cumulative innovation where firms are heterogeneous in their research ability. We study the optimal reward policy when the quality of the ideas and their subsequent development effort are private information. The optimal assignment of property rights must counterbalance the incentives of current and future innovators. The resulting mechanism resembles a menu of patents that have infinite duration and fixed scope, where the latter increases in the value of the idea. Finally, we provide a way to implement this patent menu by using a simple buyout scheme: The innovator commits at the outset to a price ceiling at which he will sell his rights to a future inventor. By paying a larger fee initially, a higher price ceiling is obtained. Any subsequent innovator must pay this price and purchase its own buyout fee contract.