How does wealth taxation differ from capital income taxation? When the return on investment is equal across individuals, a well-known result is that the two tax systems are equivalent. Motivated by recent empirical evidence documenting persistent heterogeneity in rates of return across individuals, we revisit this question. With such heterogeneity, the two tax systems have opposite implications for both efficiency and inequality. Under capital income taxation, entrepreneurs who are more productive, and therefore generate more income, pay higher taxes. Under wealth taxation, entrepreneurs who have similar wealth levels pay similar taxes regardless of their productivity, which expands the tax base, shifts the tax burden toward unproductive entrepreneurs, and raises the savings rate of productive ones. This reallocation increases aggregate productivity and output. In the simulated model parameterized to match the US data, replacing the capital income tax with a wealth tax in a revenue-neutral fashion delivers a significantly higher average lifetime utility to a newborn (about 7.5% in consumption-equivalent terms). Turning to optimal taxation, the optimal wealth tax (OWT) in a stationary equilibrium is positive and yields even larger welfare gains. In contrast, the optimal capital income tax (OCIT) is negative—a subsidy—and large, and it delivers lower welfare gains than the wealth tax. Furthermore, the subsidy policy increases consumption inequality, whereas the wealth tax reduces it slightly. We also consider an extension that models the transition path and find that individuals who are alive at the time of the policy change, on average, would incur large welfare losses if the new policy is OCIT but would experience large welfare gains if the new policy is an OWT. We conclude that wealth taxation has the potential to raise productivity while simultaneously reducing consumption inequality.
During the past two decades, households experienced increases in their average wages and expenditures alongside with divergent trends in their wages, expenditures, and time allocation. We develop a model with incomplete asset markets and household heterogeneity in market and home technologies and preferences to account for these labor market trends and assess their welfare consequences. Using micro data on expenditures and time use, we identify the sources of heterogeneity across households, document how these sources have changed over time, and perform counterfactual analyses. Given the observed increase in leisure expenditures relative to leisure time and the complementarity of these inputs in leisure technology, we infer a significant increase in the average productivity of time spent on leisure. The increasing productivity of leisure time generates significant welfare gains for the average household and moderates negative welfare effects from the rising dispersion of expenditures and time allocation across households.
The excess procyclicality of fiscal policy is commonly viewed as a central malaise in emerging economies. We document that procyclicality is more pervasive in countries with higher sovereign risk and provide a model of optimal fiscal policy with nominal rigidities and endogenous sovereign default that can account for this empirical pattern. Financing a fiscal stimulus is costly for risky countries and can render countercyclical policies undesirable, even in the presence of large Keynesian stabilization gains. We also show that imposing austerity can backfire by exacerbating the exposure to default, but a well-designed "fiscal forward guidance" can help reduce the excess procyclicality.
This paper proposes a theory of foreign reserves as macroprudential policy. We study an open economy model of financial crises, in which pecuniary externalities lead to over-borrowing, and show that by accumulating international reserves, the government can achieve the constrained-efficient allocation. The optimal reserve accumulation policy leans against the wind and significantly reduces the exposure to financial crises. The theory is consistent with the joint dynamics of private and official capital flows, both over time and in the cross section, and can quantitatively account for the recent upward trend in international reserves.
Following the sovereign debt crisis of 2012, some southern European countries have debated proposals to leave the Euro. We evaluate this policy change in a standard monetary model with seigniorage financing of the deficit. The main novel feature is that we depart from rational expectations while maintaining full rationality of agents in a sense made very precise. Our first contribution is to show that small departures from rational expectations imply that inflation upon exit can be orders of magnitude higher than under rational expectations. Our second contribution is to provide a framework for policy analysis in models without rational expectations.
Sovereign governments owe debt to many foreign creditors and can choose which creditors to favor when making payments. This paper documents the de facto seniority structure of sovereign debt using new data on defaults (missed payments or arrears) and creditor losses in debt restructuring (haircuts). We overturn conventional wisdom by showing that official bilateral (government-to-government) debt is junior, or at least not senior, to private sovereign debt such as bank loans and bonds. Private creditors are typically paid first and lose less than bilateral official creditors. We confirm that multilateral institutions like the IMF and World Bank are senior creditors.
The Greek economy experienced a boom until 2007, followed by a prolonged depression resulting in a 25 percent shortfall of GDP by 2016. Informed by a detailed analysis of macroeconomic patterns in Greece, we estimate a rich dynamic general equilibrium model to assess quantitatively the sources of the boom and bust. Lower external demand for traded goods and contractionary fiscal policies account for the largest fraction of the Greek depression. A decline in total factor productivity, due primarily to lower factor utilization, substantially amplifies the depression. Given the significant adjustment of prices and wages observed throughout the cycle, a nominal devaluation would only have short-lived stabilizing effects. By contrast, shifting the burden of adjustment away from taxes toward spending or away from capital taxes toward other taxes would generate longer-term production and consumption gains. Eliminating the rise in transfers to households during the boom would significantly reduce the burden of tax adjustment in the bust and the magnitude of the depression.
We explore quantitatively the possibility of multiple equilibria in a model of sovereign debt crises. The source of multiplicity is the one identified by Calvo (1988). This type of multiplicity has been at the heart of the policy debate through the recent European sovereign debt crisis. Key for multiplicity in the model is a stochastic process for output featuring long periods of either high or low growth. We calibrate the output process in the model using data for the southern European countries that were exposed to the debt crisis. We find that expectations-driven sovereign debt crises are empirically plausible, but only in periods of stagnation. Multiplicity is state dependent: in periods of stagnation and for intermediate levels of debt, interest rates may be high for reasons unrelated to fundamentals.
I develop an idea flows theory of firm and worker dynamics in order to assess the consequences of population aging. Older people are less likely to attempt entrepreneurship and switch employers because they have found better jobs. Consequently, aging reduces entry and worker mobility through a composition effect. In equilibrium, the lower entry rate implies fewer new, better job opportunities for workers, while the better matched labor market dissuades job creation and entry. Aging accounts for a large share of substantial declines in firm and worker dynamics since the 1980s, primarily due to equilibrium forces. Cross-state evidence supports these predictions.
This paper shows that the inability to use monetary policy for macroeconomic stabilization leaves a government more vulnerable to a rollover crisis. We study a sovereign default model with self-fulfilling rollover crises, foreign currency debt, and nominal rigidities. When the government lacks monetary autonomy, lenders anticipate that the government will face a severe recession in the event of a liquidity crisis, and are therefore more prone to run on government bonds. By contrast, a government with monetary autonomy can stabilize the economy and can easily remain immune to a rollover crisis. In a quantitative application, we find that the lack of monetary autonomy played a central role in making the Eurozone vulnerable to a rollover crisis. A lender of last resort can help ease the costs from giving up monetary independence.