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.
We assess the welfare consequences of occupational licensing for workers and consumers. We estimate a model of labor market equilibrium in which licensing restricts labor supply but also affects labor demand via worker quality and selection. On the margin of occupations licensed differently between U.S. states, we find that licensing raises wages and hours but reduces employment. We estimate an average welfare loss of 12 percent of occupational surplus. Workers and consumers respectively bear 70 and 30 percent of the incidence. Higher willingness to pay offsets 80 percent of higher prices for consumers, and higher wages compensate workers for 60 percent of the cost of mandated investment in occupation-specific human capital.
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.
What structure of income taxation maximizes the social benefits of redistribution while minimizing the social harm associated with distorting the allocation of labor input? Many authors have advocated scrapping the current tax system, which redistributes primarily via marginal tax rates that rise with income, and replacing it with a flat tax system, in which marginal tax rates are constant and redistribution is achieved via non-means-tested transfers. In this paper we compare alternative tax systems in an environment with distinct roles for public and private insurance. We evaluate alternative policies using a social welfare function designed to capture the taste for redistribution reflected in the current tax system. In our preferred specification, moving to the optimal flat tax policy reduces welfare, whereas moving to the optimal fully nonlinear Mirrlees policy generates only tiny welfare gains. These findings suggest that proposals for dramatic tax reform should be viewed with caution.
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.
We develop an asset pricing model with flexible heterogeneity in asset demand across investors, designed to match institutional and household holdings. A portfolio choice model implies characteristics-based demand when returns have a factor structure and expected returns and factor loadings depend on the assets' own characteristics. We propose an instrumental variables estimator for the characteristics-based demand system to address the endogeneity of demand and asset prices. Using U.S. stock market data, we illustrate how the model could be used to understand the role of institutions in asset market movements, volatility, and predictability.
This paper measures the output costs of sovereign risk by combining a sovereign debt model with firm- and bank-level data. In our framework, an increase in sovereign risk lowers the price of government debt and has an adverse impact on banks’ balance sheets, disrupting their ability to finance firms. Importantly, firms are not equally affected by these developments: those that have greater financing needs and borrow from banks that are more exposed to government debt cut their production the most in a debt crisis. We measure the extent of this heterogeneity using Italian data and parameterize the model to match these cross-sectional facts. In counterfactual analysis, we find that heightened sovereign risk was responsible for one-third of the observed output decline during the 2011-2012 crisis in Italy.
In the data sovereign default is always partial and varies in its duration. Debt levels during default episodes initially increase and do not experience reductions upon resolution. This paper presents a theory of sovereign default that replicates these properties, which are absent in standard sovereign default theory. Partial default is a flexible way to raise funds as the sovereign chooses its intensity and duration. Partial default is also costly because it amplifies debt crises as the defaulted debt accumulates and interest rate spreads increase. This theory is capable of rationalizing the large heterogeneity in partial default, its comovements with spreads, debt levels, and output, and the dynamics of debt during default episodes. In our theory, as in the data, debt grows during default episodes, and large defaults are longer, and associated with higher interest rate spreads, higher debt levels, and deeper recessions.
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.
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.
Most firms begin very small, and large firms are the result of typically decades of persistent growth. This growth can be understood as the result of some form of organization capital accumulation. In the US, the distribution of firm size k has a right tail only slightly thinner than 1/k. This is shown to imply that incumbent firms account for most aggregate organization capital accumulation. And it implies potentially extremely slow aggregate convergence rates. A benchmark model is proposed in which managers can use incumbent organization capital to create new organization capital. Workers are a specific factor for producing consumption, and they require managerial supervision. Through the lens of the model, the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008 is unsurprising if the events of late 2008 and early 2009 are interpreted as a destruction of organization capital, or as a belief shock that made consumers want to reduce consumption and accumulate more wealth instead.
We develop and calibrate an overlapping generations general equilibrium model of the U.S. economy with heterogeneous consumers who face idiosyncratic earnings and health risk to study the implications of exogenous trends in increasing college attainment, decreasing fertility, and increasing longevity between 2005 and 2100. While all three trends contribute to a higher old age dependency ratio, increasing college attainment has different macroeconomic implications because it increases labor productivity. Decreasing fertility and increasing longevity require the government to increase the average labor tax rate from 32.0 to 44.4 percent. Increasing college attainment lowers the required tax increase by 10.1 percentage points. The required tax increase is higher under general equilibrium than in a small open economy with a constant interest rate because the reduction in the interest rate lowers capital income tax revenues.
We explore the long-run demand for M1 based on a dataset comprising 38 countries and relatively long sample periods, extending in some cases to over a century. Overall, we find very strong evidence of a long-run relationship between the ratio of M1 to GDP and a short-term interest rate, in spite of a few failures. The standard log-log specification provides a very good characterization of the data, with the exception of periods featuring very low interest rate values. This is because such a specification implies that, as the short rate tends to zero, real money balances become arbitrarily large, which is rejected by the data. A simple extension imposing limits on the amount that households can borrow results in a truncated log-log specification, which is in line with what we observe in the data. We estimate the interest rate elasticity to be between 0.3 and 0.6, which encompasses the well-known squared-root specification of Baumol and Tobin.
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.
In this paper, we show that there is substantial comovement between prices of primary commodities such as oil, aluminum, maize, or copper and real exchange rates between developed economies such as Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom against the US dollar. We therefore explicitly consider the production of commodities in a two-country model of trade with productivity shocks and shocks to the supplies of commodities. We calibrate the model so as to reproduce the volatility and persistence of primary commodity prices and show that it delivers equilibrium real exchange rates that are as volatile and persistent as in the data. The model rationalizes an empirical strategy to identify the fraction of the variance of real exchange rates that can be accounted for by the underlying shocks, even if those are not observable. We use this strategy to argue that shocks that move primary commodity prices account for a large fraction of the volatility of real exchange rates in the data. Our analysis implies that existing models used to analyze real exchange rates between large economies that mostly focus on trade between differentiated final goods could benefit, in terms of matching the behavior of real exchange rates, by also considering trade in primary commodities.
We use the Ramsey and Mirrlees approaches to study how fiscal and trade policy should be set cooperatively when governments must raise revenues with distorting taxes. Free trade and unrestricted capital mobility are optimal. Efficient outcomes can be implemented with taxes only on final consumption goods and labor income. We study alternative tax systems, showing that uniform taxation of household asset returns, and not taxing corporate income yields efficient outcomes. Border adjustments exempting exports from and including imports in the tax base are desirable. Destination- and residence-based tax systems are desirable compared to origin- and source-based systems.
In this paper, I revisit some recent work on the theory of the money supply, using a theoretical framework that closely follows Karl Brunner's work. I argue that had his research proposals been followed by the profession, some of the misunderstandings related to the instability of the money demand relationship could have been avoided.
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.
We revisit the causes, welfare consequences, and policy implications of the dispersion in households' labor market outcomes using a model with uninsurable risk, incomplete asset markets, and home production. Accounting for home production amplifies welfare-based differences across households meaning that inequality is larger than we thought. Home production does not offset differences that originate in the market sector because productivity differences in the home sector are significant and the time input in home production does not covary with consumption expenditures and wages in the cross section of households. The optimal tax system should feature more progressivity taking into account home production.
This paper studies optimal taxation of earnings when the degree of tax progressivity is allowed to vary with age. The setting is an overlapping-generations model that incorporates irreversible skill investment, flexible labor supply, ex-ante heterogeneity in the disutility of work and the cost of skill acquisition, partially insurable wage risk, and a life cycle productivity profile. An analytically tractable version of the model without intertemporal trade is used to characterize and quantify the salient trade-offs in tax design. The key results are that progressivity should be U-shaped in age and that the average marginal tax rate should be increasing and concave in age. These findings are confirmed in a version of the model with borrowing and saving that we solve numerically.
After the economic reforms that followed the National Revolution of the 1950s, Bolivia seemed positioned for sustained growth. Indeed, it achieved unprecedented growth from 1960 to 1977. Mistakes in economic policies, especially the rapid accumulation of debt due to persistent deficits and a fixed exchange rate policy during the 1970s, led to a debt crisis that began in 1977. From 1977 to 1986, Bolivia lost almost all the gains in GDP per capita that it had achieved since 1960. In 1986, Bolivia started to grow again, interrupted only by the financial crisis of 1998–2002, which was the result of a drop in the availability of external financing. Bolivia has grown since 2002, but government policies since 2006 are reminiscent of the policies of the 1970s that led to the debt crisis, in particular, the accumulation of external debt and the drop in international reserves due to a de facto fixed exchange rate since 2012.
Applying the Foster, Haltiwanger, and Krizan (FHK) (2001) decomposition to plant-level manufacturing data from Chile and Korea, we find that the entry and exit of plants account for a larger fraction of aggregate productivity growth during periods of fast GDP growth. Studies of other countries confirm this empirical relationship. To analyze this relationship, we develop a simple model of firm entry and exit based on Hopenhayn (1992) in which there are analytical expressions for the FHK decomposition. When we introduce reforms that reduce entry costs or reduce barriers to technology adoption into a calibrated model, we find that the entry and exit terms in the FHK decomposition become more important as GDP grows rapidly, just as they do in the data from Chile and Korea.
In this chapter, we review the monetary and fiscal history of Argentina for the period 1960–2017, a time during which the country suffered several balance of payments crises, three periods of hyperinflation, two defaults on government debt, and three banking crises. All told, between 1969 and 1991, after several monetary reforms, thirteen zeros had been removed from its currency. We argue that all these events are the symptom of a recurrent problem: Argentina’s unsuccessful attempts to tame the fiscal deficit. An implication of our analysis is that the future economic evolution of Argentina depends greatly on its ability to develop institutions that guarantee that the government does not spend more than its genuine tax revenues over reasonable periods of time.
We develop a new general equilibrium model of asset pricing and asset trading volume in which agents’ motivations to trade arise due to uninsurable idiosyncratic shocks to agents’ risk tolerance. In response to these shocks, agents trade to rebalance their portfolios between risky and riskless assets. We study a positive question — When does trade volume become a pricing factor? — and a normative question — What is the impact of Tobin taxes on asset trading on welfare? In our model, economies in which marketwide risk tolerance is negatively correlated with trade volume have a higher risk premium for aggregate risk. Likewise, for a given economy, we ﬁnd that assets whose cash ﬂows are concentrated on states with high trading volume have higher prices and lower risk premia. We then show that Tobin taxes on asset trade have a ﬁrst-order negative impact on ex-ante welfare, i.e., a small subsidy to trade leads to an improvement in ex-ante welfare. Finally, we develop an alternative version of our model in which asset trade arises from uninsurable idiosyncratic shocks to agents’ hedging needs rather than shocks to their risk tolerance. We show that our positive results regarding the relationship between trade volume and asset prices carry through. In contrast, the normative implications of this speciﬁcation of our model for Tobin taxes or subsidies depend on the speciﬁcation of agents’ preferences and non-traded endowments.
This chapter is an introductory essay to the volume Climate Change Economics: The Role of Uncertainty and Risk, edited by V. V. Chari and Robert Litterman. This volume consists of a collection of papers that were presented at "The Next Generation of Economic Models of Climate Change," a conference hosted by the Heller-Hurwicz Economics Institute at the University of Minnesota.
Brazil has had a long period of high inflation. It peaked around 100 percent per year in 1964, decreased until the first oil shock (1973), but accelerated again afterward, reaching levels above 100 percent on average between 1980 and 1994. This last period coincided with severe balance of payments problems and economic stagnation that followed the external debt crisis in the early 1980s. We show that the high-inflation period (1960-1994) was characterized by a combination of fiscal deficits, passive monetary policy, and constraints on debt financing. The transition to the low-inflation period (1995-2016) was characterized by improvements in all of these features, but it did not lead to significant improvements in economic growth. In addition, we document a strong positive correlation between inflation rates and seigniorage revenues, although inflation rates are relatively high for modest levels of seigniorage revenues. Finally, we discuss the role of the weak institutional framework surrounding the fiscal and monetary authorities and the role of monetary passiveness and inflation indexation in accounting for the unique features of inflation dynamics in Brazil.
Using simulations from a multicountry neoclassical growth model, we analyze several post-Brexit scenarios. First, the United Kingdom unilaterally imposes tighter restrictions on FDI and trade from other EU nations. Second, the European Union retaliates and imposes the same restrictions on the UK. Finally, the United Kingdom reduces restrictions on other nations during the post-Brexit transition. Model predictions depend crucially on the policy response of multinationals’ investment in technology capital, accumulated know-how from investments in R&D, brands, and organizations used simultaneously in their domestic and foreign operations.
This paper argues that the comovement between inflation and economic activity is an important determinant of real interest rates over time and across countries. First, we show that for advanced economies, periods with more procyclical inflation are associated with lower real rates, but only when there is no risk of default on government debt. Second, we present a model of nominal sovereign debt with domestic risk-averse lenders. With procyclical inflation, nominal bonds pay out more in bad times, making them a good hedge against aggregate risk. In the absence of default risk, procyclical inflation yields lower real rates. However, procyclicality implies that the government needs to make larger (real) payments when the economy deteriorates, which could increase default risk and trigger an increase in real rates. The patterns of real rates predicted by the model are quantitatively consistent with those documented in the data.
What quantitative lessons can we learn from models of endogenous technical change through innovative investments by firms for the impact of changes in the economic environment on the dynamics of aggregate productivity in the short, medium, and long run? We present a unifying model that nests a number of canonical models in the literature and characterize their positive implications for the transitional dynamics of aggregate productivity and their welfare implications in terms of two sufficient statistics. We review the current state of measurement of these two sufficient statistics and discuss the range of positive and normative quantitative implications of our model for a wide array of counterfactual experiments, including the link between a decline in the entry rate of new firms and a slowdown in the growth of aggregate productivity given that measurement. We conclude with a summary of the lessons learned from our analysis to help direct future research aimed at building models of endogenous productivity growth useful for quantitative analysis.
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.
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.
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.
We revisit the question of how capital should be taxed. We allow for a rich set of tax instruments that consists of taxes widely used in practice, including consumption, dividend, capital, and labor income taxes. We restrict policies to respect promises that the government has made in the previous period regarding the current value of wealth. We show that capital should not be taxed if households have preferences that are standard in the macroeconomics literature. We show that Ramsey outcomes that must respect such promises are time consistent. We show that the presumption in the literature that capital should be taxed for some length of time arises because the tax system is restricted.
We provide empirical evidence of a novel liquidity-based transmission mechanism through which monetary policy influences asset markets, develop a model of this mechanism, and assess the ability of the quantitative theory to match the evidence.
The outreach of macroprudential policies is likely limited in practice by imperfect regulation enforcement, whether due to shadow banking, regulatory arbitrage, or other regulation circumvention schemes. We study how such concerns affect the design of optimal regulatory policy in a workhorse model in which pecuniary externalities call for macroprudential taxes on debt, but with the addition of a novel constraint that financial regulators lack the ability to enforce taxes on a subset of agents. While regulated agents reduce risk taking in response to debt taxes, unregulated agents react to the safer environment by taking on more risk. These leakages undermine the effectiveness of macroprudential taxes but do not necessarily call for weaker interventions. A quantitative analysis of the model suggests that aggregate welfare gains and reductions in the severity and frequency of financial crises remain, on average, largely unaffected by even significant leakages.
This paper studies asset pricing in a setting in which idiosyncratic risk in human capital is not fully insurable. Firms use long-term contracts to provide insurance to workers, but neither side can commit to these contracts; furthermore, worker-firm relationships have endogenous durations owing to costly and unobservable effort. Uninsured tail risk in labor earnings arises as a part of an optimal risk-sharing scheme. In the general equilibrium, exposure to the resulting tail risk generates higher risk premia, more volatile returns, and variations in expected returns across firms. Model outcomes are consistent with the cyclicality of factor shares in the aggregate, and the heterogeneity in exposures to idiosyncratic and aggregate shocks in the cross section.
Comparing U.S. GDP to the sum of measured payments to labor and imputed rental payments to capital results in a large and volatile residual or “factorless income.” We analyze three common strategies of allocating and interpreting factorless income, speciﬁcally that it arises from economic proﬁts (Case Π), unmeasured capital (Case K), or deviations of the rental rate of capital from standard measures based on bond returns (Case R). We are skeptical of Case Π as it reveals a tight negative relationship between real interest rates and markups, leads to large ﬂuctuations in inferred factor-augmenting technologies, and results in markups that have risen since the early 1980s but that remain lower today than in the 1960s and 1970s. Case K shows how unmeasured capital plausibly accounts for all factorless income in recent decades, but its value in the 1960s would have to be more than half of the capital stock, which we ﬁnd less plausible. We view Case R as most promising as it leads to more stable factor shares and technology growth than the other cases, though we acknowledge that it requires an explanation for the pattern of deviations from common measures of the rental rate. Using a model with multiple sectors and types of capital, we show that our assessment of the drivers of changes in output, factor shares, and functional inequality depends critically on the interpretation of factorless income.
Negotiations to restructure sovereign debt are time consuming, taking almost a decade on average to resolve. In this paper, we analyze a class of widely used complete information models of delays in sovereign debt restructuring and show that, despite superficial similarities, there are major differences across models in the driving force for equilibrium delay, the circumstances in which delay occurs, and the efficiency of the debt restructuring process. We focus on three key assumptions. First, if delay has a permanent effect on economic activity in the defaulting country, equilibrium delay often occurs; this delay can sometimes be socially efficient. Second, prohibiting debt issuance as part of a settlement makes delay less likely to occur in equilibrium. Third, when debt issuance is not fully state contingent, delay can arise because of the risk that the sovereign will default on any debt issued as part of the settlement.
We revisit the question of how capital should be taxed, arguing that if governments are allowed to use the kinds of tax instruments widely used in practice, for preferences that are standard in the macroeconomic literature, the optimal approach is to never distort capital accumulation. We show that the results in the literature that lead to the presumption that capital ought to be taxed for some time arise because of the initial confiscation of wealth and because the tax system is restricted.
This paper evaluates the role of rising income inequality in explaining observed growth in college tuition. We develop a competitive model of the college market in which college quality depends on instructional expenditure and the average ability of admitted students. An innovative feature of our model is that it allows for a continuous distribution of college quality. We find that observed increases in US income inequality can explain more than the entire observed rise in average net tuition since 1990 and that rising income inequality has also depressed college attendance.
Modern business cycle theory focuses on the study of dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models that generate aggregate fluctuations similar to those experienced by actual economies. We discuss how this theory has evolved from its roots in the early real business cycle models of the late 1970s through the turmoil of the Great Recession four decades later. We document the strikingly different pattern of comovements of macro aggregates during the Great Recession compared to other postwar recessions, especially the 1982 recession. We then show how two versions of the latest generation of real business cycle models can account, respectively, for the aggregate and the cross-regional fluctuations observed in the Great Recession in the United States.
Banks' ratio of the market value to book value of their equity was close to 1 until the 1990s, then more than doubled during the 1996-2007 period, and fell again to values close to 1 after the 2008 financial crisis. Sarin and Summers (2016) and Chousakos and Gorton (2017) argue that the drop in banks' market-to-book ratio since the crisis is due to a loss in bank franchise value or profitability. In this paper we argue that banks' market-to-book ratio is the sum of two components: franchise value and the value of government guarantees. We empirically decompose the ratio between these two components and find that a large portion of the variation in this ratio over time is due to changes in the value of government guarantees.
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.
We establish that creditor beliefs regarding future borrowing can be self-fulfilling, leading to multiple equilibria with markedly different debt accumulation patterns. We characterize such indeterminacy in the Eaton-Gersovitz sovereign debt model augmented with long maturity bonds. Two necessary conditions for the multiplicity are: (i) the government is more impatient than foreign creditors, and (ii) there are deadweight losses from default; both are realistic and standard assumptions in the quantitative literature. The multiplicity is dynamic and stems from the self-fulfilling beliefs of how future creditors will price bonds; long maturity bonds are therefore a crucial component of the multiplicity. We introduce a third party with deep pockets to discuss the policy implications of this source of multiplicity and identify the potentially perverse consequences of traditional “lender of last resort” policies.
This paper presents a continuous-time model of sovereign debt. In it, a relatively impatient sovereign government’s hidden type switches back and forth between a commitment type, which cannot default, and an optimizing type, which can default on the country’s debt at any time, and assume outside lenders have particular beliefs regarding how a commitment type should borrow for any given level of debt and bond price. We show that if these beliefs satisfy reasonable assumptions, in any Markov equilibrium, the optimizing type mimics the commitment type when borrowing, revealing its type only by defaulting on its debt at random times. Further, in such Markov equilibria (the solution to a simple pair of ordinary differential equations), there are positive gross issuances at all dates, constant net imports as long as there is a positive equilibrium probability that the government is the optimizing type, and net debt repayment only by the commitment type. For countries that have recently defaulted, the interest rate the country pays on its debt is a decreasing function of the amount of time since its last default, and its total debt is an increasing function of the amount of time since its last default. For countries that have not recently defaulted, interest rates are constant.
After World War II, international capital flowed into slow-growing Latin America rather than fast-growing Asia. This is surprising as, everything else equal, fast growth should imply high capital returns. This paper develops a capital flow accounting framework to quantify the role of different factor market distortions in producing these patterns. Surprisingly, we find that distortions in labor markets — rather than domestic or international capital markets — account for the bulk of these flows. Labor market distortions that indirectly depress investment incentives by lowering equilibrium labor supply explain two-thirds of observed flows, while improvement in these distortions over time accounts for much of Asia’s rapid growth.
Official statistics display a significant slowdown in U.S. aggregate productivity growth that begins in 2004. We show how offshore profit shifting by U.S. multinational enterprises affects GDP and, thus, productivity measurement. Under international statistical guidelines, profit shifting causes part of U.S. production generated by multinationals to be excluded from official measures of U.S. production. Profit shifting has increased significantly since the mid-1990s, resulting in lower measures of U.S. aggregate productivity growth. We construct an alternative measure of value added that adjusts for profit shifting. The adjustments raise aggregate productivity growth rates by 0.09 percent annually for 1994-2004, 0.24 percent annually for 2004-2008, and lowers annual aggregate productivity growth rates by 0.09 percent after 2008. Our adjustments mitigate, but do not eliminate, the measured productivity slowdown. The adjustments are especially large in R&D-intensive industries, which most likely produce intangible assets that facilitate profit shifting. The adjustments boost value added in these industries by as much as 8 percent in the mid-2000s.
We use a massive, matched employer-employee database for the United States to analyze the contribution of firms to the rise in earnings inequality from 1978 to 2013. We ﬁnd that one-third of the rise in the variance of (log) earnings occurred within firms, whereas two-thirds of the rise occurred between firms. However, this rising between-firm variance is not accounted for by the firms themselves: the firm-related rise in the variance can be decomposed into two roughly equally important forces—a rise in the sorting of high-wage workers to high-wage firms and a rise in the segregation of similar workers between firms. In contrast, we do not ﬁnd a rise in the variance of firm-speciﬁc pay once we control for worker composition. Instead, we see a substantial rise in dispersion of person-speciﬁc pay, accounting for 68% of rising inequality, potentially due to rising returns to skill. The rise in between-firm variance, mostly due to worker sorting and segregation, accounted for a particularly large share of the total increase in inequality in smaller and medium firms (explaining 84% for firms with fewer than 10,000 employees). In contrast, in the very largest firms with 10,000+ employees, 42% of the increase in the variance of earnings took place within firms, driven by both declines in earnings for employees below the median and a substantial rise in earnings for the 10% best-paid employees. However, because of their small number, the contribution of the very top 50 or so earners at large firms to the overall increase in within-firm earnings inequality is small.
Businesses hold large quantities of cash reserves, which have average returns well below their investments in tangible capital. Businesses do this because these monetary assets provide services. One implication is that money services is a factor of production in capital theoretic valuation equilibrium models. Our aggregate production function is consistent with both the classical demand for money function relationship and with extended periods of near zero short-term nominal interest rates. In our model economy, there is a 100 percent reserve requirement on all demand deposits. Demand deposits are legal tender. We find (i) money services in the production function necessitates revisions in the national accounts; (ii) monetary and fiscal policy cannot be completely separated; (iii) for a given policy, equilibrium is either unique or does not exist; and (iv) Friedman’s monetary satiation is not optimal. We make quantitative comparisons between interest rate targeting regimes and between inflation rate targeting regimes. The best inflation rate target was 2 percent.
Since the early 1990s, as the United States borrowed heavily from the rest of the world, employment in the U.S. goods-producing sector has fallen. We construct a dynamic general equilibrium model with several mechanisms that could generate declining goods-sector employment: foreign borrowing, nonhomothetic preferences, and differential productivity growth across sectors. We find that only 15.1 percent of the decline in goods-sector employment from 1992 to 2012 stems from U.S. trade deficits; most of the decline is due to differential productivity growth. As the United States repays its debt, its trade balance will reverse, but goods-sector employment will continue to fall.
Most firms begin very small, and large firms are the result of typically decades of persistent growth. This growth can be understood as the result of some form of capital accumulation-organization capital. In the US, the distribution of firm size k has a right tail only slightly thinner than 1/k. This means that most capital accumulation must be accounted for by incumbent fi rms. This paper describes a range of circumstances in which this implies aggregate convergence rates that are only about half of what they are in the standard Cass-Koopmans economy. Through the lens of the models described in this paper, the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008 is unsurprising if the events of late 2008 and early 2009 are interpreted as a destruction of organization capital.
The paper surveys the recent literature on the fiscal implications of central bank balance sheets, with a special focus on political economy issues. It then presents the results of simulations that describe the effects of different scenarios for the Federal Reserve's longer-run balance sheet on its earnings remittances to the U.S. Treasury and, more broadly, on the government's overall fiscal position. We find that reducing longer-run reserve balances from $2.3 trillion (roughly the current amount) to $1 trillion reduces the likelihood of posting a quarterly net loss in the future from 30 percent to under 5 percent. Further reducing longer-run reserve balances from $1 trillion to pre-crisis levels has little effect on the likelihood of net losses.
We study cooperative optimal Ramsey equilibria in the open economy addressing classic policy questions: Should restrictions be placed to free trade and capital mobility? Should capital income be taxed? Should goods be taxed based on origin or destination? What are desirable border adjustments? How can a Ramsey allocation be implemented with residence-based taxes on assets? We characterize optimal wedges and analyze alternative policy implementations.
Occupational licensure, one of the most significant labor market regulations in the United States, may restrict the interstate movement of workers. We analyze the interstate migration of 22 licensed occupations. Using an empirical strategy that controls for unobservable characteristics that drive long-distance moves, we find that the between-state migration rate for individuals in occupations with state-specific licensing exam requirements is 36 percent lower relative to members of other occupations. Members of licensed occupations with national licensing exams show no evidence of limited interstate migration. The size of this effect varies across occupations and appears to be tied to the state specificity of licensing requirements. We also provide evidence that the adoption of reciprocity agreements, which lower re-licensure costs, increases the interstate migration rate of lawyers. Based on our results, we estimate that the rise in occupational licensing can explain part of the documented decline in interstate migration and job transitions in the United States.
In this paper, we use a simple model of money demand to characterize the behavior of monetary aggregates in the United States from 1960 to 2016. We argue that the demand for the currency component of the monetary base has been remarkably stable during this period. We use the model to make projections of the nominal quantity of cash in circulation under alternative future paths for the federal funds rate. Our calculations suggest that if the federal funds rate is lifted up as suggested by the survey of economic projections made by the members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the fall in total currency demanded in the next two years ranges between 50 and 200 billion. Our discussion suggests that specific measures by the Federal Reserve to absorb that cash could be worth considering to make the future path of the price level consistent with the price stability mandate.
In this paper, we show that a substantial fraction of the volatility of real exchange rates between developed economies such as Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom against the US dollar can be accounted for by shocks that affect the prices of primary commodities such as oil, aluminum, maize, or copper. Our analysis implies that existing models used to analyze real exchange rates between large economies that mostly focus on trade between differentiated ﬁnal goods could benefit, in terms of matching the behavior of real exchange rates, by also considering trade in primary commodities.
We develop a theory of sovereign risk contagion based on financial links. In our multi-country model, sovereign bond spreads comove because default in one country can trigger default in other countries. Countries are linked because they borrow, default, and renegotiate with common lenders, and the bond price and recovery schedules for each country depend on the choices of other countries. A foreign default increases the lenders' pricing kernel, which makes home borrowing more expensive and can induce a home default. Countries also default together because by doing so they can renegotiate the debt simultaneously and pay lower recoveries. We apply our model to the 2012 debt crises of Italy and Spain and show that it can replicate the time path of spreads during the crises. In a counterfactual exercise, we find that the debt crisis in Spain (Italy) can account for one-half (one-third) of the increase in the bond spreads of Italy (Spain).
I propose an equilibrium menu cost model with a continuum of sectors, each consisting of strategically engaged firms. Compared to a model with monopolistically competitive sectors that is calibrated to the same data on good-level price flexibility, the dynamic duopoly model features a smaller inflation response to monetary shocks and output responses that are more than twice as large. The model also implies (i) four times larger welfare losses from nominal rigidities, (ii) smaller menu costs and idiosyncratic shocks are needed to match the data, (iii) a U-shaped relationship between market concentration and price flexibility, for which I find empirical support.
We study financial panics in a small open economy with floating exchange rates. In our model, bank runs trigger a decline in domestic wealth and a currency depreciation. Runs are more likely when banks have dollar debt. Dollar debt emerges endogenously in response to the precautionary motive of domestic savers: dollar savings provide insurance against crises; so when crises are possible it becomes relatively more expensive for banks to borrow in local currency, which gives them an incentive to issue dollar debt. This feedback between aggregate risk and savers’ behavior can generate multiple equilibria, with the bad equilibrium characterized by financial dollarization and the possibility of bank runs. A domestic lender of last resort can eliminate the bad equilibrium, but interventions need to be fiscally credible. Holding foreign currency reserves hedges the fiscal position of the government and enhances its credibility, thus improving financial stability.
The length of time from the implementation of an occupational licensing statute (i.e., licensing duration) may matter in influencing labor market outcomes. Adding to or raising the entry barriers are likely easier once an occupation is established and has gained influence in a political jurisdiction. States often enact grandfather clauses and ratchet up requirements that protect existing workers and increase entry costs to new entrants. We analyze the labor market influence of the duration of occupational licensing statutes for 13 major universally licensed occupations over a 75-year period. These occupations comprise the vast majority of workers in these regulated occupations in the United States. We provide among the first estimates of potential economic rents to grandfathering. We find that duration years of occupational licensure are positively associated with wages for continuing and grandfathered workers. The estimates show a positive relationship of duration with hours worked, but we find moderately negative results for participation in the labor market. The universally licensed occupations, however, exhibit heterogeneity in outcomes. Consequently, unlike some other labor market public policies, such as minimum wages or direct unemployment insurance benefits, occupational licensing would likely influence labor market outcomes when measured over a longer period of time.
We develop a model for analyzing the sovereign debt crises of 2010–2013 in the Eurozone. The government sets its expenditure-debt policy optimally. The need to sell large quantities of bonds every period leaves the government vulnerable to self-fulfilling crises in which investors, anticipating a crisis, are unwilling to buy the bonds, thereby provoking the crisis. In this situation, the optimal policy of the government is to reduce its debt to a level where crises are not possible. If, however, the economy is in a recession where there is a positive probability of recovery in fiscal revenues, the government also has an incentive to smooth consumption and increase debt. Our exercise identifies conditions on fundamentals for which the incentive to smooth consumption dominates, giving rise to a situation where governments optimally “gamble for redemption,” running fiscal deficits and increasing their debt, thereby increasing their vulnerability to crises.
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.
We develop a new tractable model of banks' liquidity management and the credit channel of monetary policy. Banks finance loans by issuing demand deposits. Because loans are illiquid, deposit transfers across banks must be settled with reserves. Deposit withdrawals are random, and banks manage liquidity risk by holding a precautionary buffer of reserves. We show how different shocks affect the banking system by altering the trade-off between profiting from lending and incurring greater liquidity risk. Through various tools, monetary policy affects the real economy by altering that trade-off. In a quantitative application, we study the driving forces behind the decline in lending and liquidity hoarding by banks during the 2008 financial crisis. Our analysis underscores the importance of disruptions in interbank markets followed by a persistent decline in credit demand.
Between 2007 and 2013, U.S. households experienced a large and persistent decline in net worth. The objective of this paper is to study the business cycle implications of such a decline. We first develop a tractable monetary model in which households face idiosyncratic unemployment risk that they can partially self-insure using savings. A low level of liquid household wealth opens the door to self-fullfilling fluctuations: if wealth-poor households expect high unemployment, they have a strong precautionary incentive to cut spending, which can make the expectation of high unemployment a reality. Monetary policy, because of the zero lower bound, cannot rule out such expectations-driven recessions. In contrast, when wealth is sufficiently high, an aggressive monetary policy can keep the economy at full employment. Finally, we document that during the U.S. Great Recession wealth-poor households increased saving more sharply than richer households, pointing towards the importance of the precautionary channel over this period.
Sovereign debt crises are associated with large and persistent declines in economic activity, disproportionately so for nontradable sectors. This paper documents this pattern using Spanish data and builds a two-sector dynamic quantitative model of sovereign default with capital accumulation. Recessions are very persistent in the model and more pronounced for nontraded sectors because of default risk. An adverse domestic shock increases the likelihood of default, limits capital inﬂows, and thus restricts the ability of the economy to exploit investment opportunities. The economy responds by reducing investment and reallocating capital toward the traded sector to support debt service payments. The real exchange rate depreciates, a reﬂection of the scarcity of traded goods. We ﬁnd that these mechanisms are quantitatively important for rationalizing the experience of Spain during the recent debt crisis.
This paper formalizes and quantifies the secular stagnation hypothesis, defined as a persistently low or negative natural rate of interest leading to a chronically binding zero lower bound (ZLB). Output-inflation dynamics and policy prescriptions are fundamentally different from those in the standard New Keynesian framework. Using a 56-period quantitative life cycle model, a standard calibration to US data delivers a natural rate ranging from -1.5% to -2%, implying an elevated risk of ZLB episodes for the foreseeable future. We decompose the contribution of demographic and technological factors to the decline in interest rates since 1970 and quantify changes required to restore higher rates.
Drawing from confidential firm-level data of US manufacturing firms, we provide new evidence on the cyclicality of small and large firms. We show that the cyclicality of sales and investment declines with firm size. The effect is primarily driven by differences between the top 0.5% of firms and the rest. Moreover, we show that, due to the skewness of sales and investment, the higher cyclicality of small firms has a negligible influence on the behavior of aggregates. We argue that the size asymmetry is unlikely to be driven by financial frictions given 1) the absence of statistically significant differences in the behavior of production inputs or debt in recessions, 2) the survival of the size effect after directly controlling for proxies of financial strength, and 3) the predictions of a simple financial frictions model, in which unconstrained (large) firms contract more in recessions than constrained (small) firms.
We use balance sheet data and stock market data for the major U.S. banking institutions during and after the 2007-8 financial crisis to estimate the magnitude of the losses experienced by these institutions because of the crisis. We then use these estimates to assess the impact of the crisis under alternative, and higher, capital requirements. We find that substantially higher capital requirements (in the 20% to 30% range) would have substantially reduced the vulnerability of these financial institutions, and consequently they would have significantly reduced the need of a public bailout.
We develop an equilibrium model of firm dynamics with random search in the labor market where hiring firms exert recruiting effort by spending resources to fill vacancies faster. Consistent with microevidence, fast-growing firms invest more in recruiting activities and achieve higher job-filling rates. These hiring decisions of firms aggregate into an index of economy-wide recruiting intensity. We study how aggregate shocks transmit to recruiting intensity, and whether this channel can account for the dynamics of aggregate matching efficiency during the Great Recession. Productivity and financial shocks lead to sizable pro-cyclical fluctuations in matching efficiency through recruiting effort. Quantitatively, the main mechanism is that firms attain their employment targets by adjusting their recruiting effort in response to movements in labor market slackness.
The ﬁnancialization view is that increased trading in commodity futures markets is associated with increases in the growth rate and volatility of commodity spot prices. This view gained credence be-cause in the 2000s trading volume increased sharply and many commodity prices rose and became more volatile. Using a large panel dataset we constructed, which includes commodities with and with-out futures markets, we ﬁnd no empirical link between increased futures market trading and changes in price behavior. Our data sheds light on the economic role of futures markets. The conventional view is that futures markets provide one-way insurance by allowing outsiders, traders with no direct interest in a commodity, to insure insiders, traders with a direct interest. The data are not consistent with the conventional view and we argue that they point to an alternative mutual insurance view, in which all participants insure each other. We formalize this view in a model and show that it is consistent with key features of the data.
In the early 1970s, hours worked per working-age person in Spain were higher than in the United States. Starting in 1975, however, hours worked in Spain fell by 40 percent. We find that 80 percent of the decline in hours worked can be accounted for by the evolution of taxes in an otherwise standard neoclassical growth model. Although taxes play a crucial role, we cannot argue that taxes drive all of the movements in hours worked. In particular, the model underpredicts the large decrease in hours in 1975–1986 and the large increase in hours in 1994–2007. The lack of productivity growth in Spain during 1994–2015 has little impact on the model’s prediction for hours worked.
We use micro data for Ireland to estimate how export participation and the export revenue of incumbent exporters respond to tariffs and real exchange rates. Both participation and revenue, but especially revenue, are more responsive to tariffs than to real exchange rates. Our estimates translate into an elasticity of aggregate exports with respect to tariffs of between -3.8 and -5.4, and with respect to real exchange rates of between 0.45 and 0.6, consistent with estimates in the literature based on aggregate data. We argue that forward-looking investment in customer base combined with the fact that tariffs are much more predictable than real exchange rates can explain why export revenue responds so much more to tariffs.
Applied general equilibrium (AGE) models, which feature multiple countries, multiple industries, and input-output linkages across industries, have been the dominant tool for evaluating the impact of trade reforms since the 1980s. We review how these models are used to perform policy analysis and document their shortcomings in predicting the industry-level effects of past trade reforms. We argue that, to improve their performance, AGE models need to incorporate product-level data on bilateral trade relations by industry and better model how trade reforms lower bilateral trade costs. We use the least traded products methodology of Kehoe et al. (2015) to provide guidance on how improvements can be made. We provide further suggestions on how AGE models can incorporate recent advances in quantitative trade theory to improve their predictive ability and better quantify the gains from trade liberalization.
This paper develops an overlapping generations model to study the macroeconomic effects of an unexpected elimination of Medicare. We ﬁnd that a large share of the elderly respond by substituting Medicaid for Medicare. Consequently, the government saves only 46 cents for every dollar cut in Medicare spending. We argue that a comparison of steady states is insufficient to evaluate the welfare effects of the reform. In particular, we ﬁnd lower ex-ante welfare gains from eliminating Medicare when we account for the costs of transition. Lastly, we ﬁnd that a majority of the current population benefits from the reform but that aggregate welfare, measured as the dollar value of the sum of wealth equivalent variations, is higher with Medicare.
This paper develops and estimates a model of indivisibilities in shipping and economies of scale in consolidation. It uses highly detailed data on imports where it is possible to observe the contents of individual containers. In the model, ﬁrms are able to adapt to indivisibility constraints by using consolidation strategies and by making adjustments to shipment size. The ﬁrm determines the optimal number of domestic ports to use, taking into account that adding more ports lowers inland freight cost, at the expense of a higher indivisibility cost. The estimated model is able to roughly account for Walmart’s port choice behavior. The model estimates are used to evaluate how mergers or dissolutions of ﬁrms or countries, and changes in variety, affect indivisibility costs and inland freight costs.
The sectoral composition of global saving changed dramatically during the last three decades. Whereas in the early 1980s most of global investment was funded by household saving, nowadays nearly two-thirds of global investment is funded by corporate saving. This shift in the sectoral composition of saving was not accompanied by changes in the sectoral composition of investment, implying an improvement in the corporate net lending position. We characterize the behavior of corporate saving using both national income accounts and firm-level data and clarify its relationship with the global decline in labor share, the accumulation of corporate cash stocks, and the greater propensity for equity buybacks. We develop a general equilibrium model with product and capital market imperfections to explore quantitatively the determination of the flow of funds across sectors. Changes including declines in the real interest rate, the price of investment, and corporate income taxes generate increases in corporate profits and shifts in the supply of sectoral saving that are of similar magnitude to those observed in the data.
Because ﬁrms invest heavily in R&D, software, brands, and other intangible assets—at a rate close to that of tangible assets—changes in measured GDP, which does not include all intangible investments, understate the actual changes in total output. If changes in the labor input are more precisely measured, then it is possible to observe little change in measured total factor productivity (TFP) coincidentally with large changes in hours and investment. This mismeasurement leaves business cycle modelers with large and unexplained labor wedges accounting for most of the ﬂuctuations in aggregate data. To address this issue, I incorporate intangible investments into a multi-sector general equilibrium model and parameterize income and cost shares using data from an updated U.S. input and output table, with intangible investments reassigned from intermediate to ﬁnal uses. I employ maximum likelihood methods and quarterly observations on sectoral gross outputs for the United States over the period 1985–2014 to estimate processes for latent sectoral TFPs—that have common and sector-speciﬁc components. Aggregate hours are not used to estimate TFPs, but the model predicts changes in hours that compare well with the actual hours series and account for roughly two-thirds of its standard deviation. I ﬁnd that sector-speciﬁc shocks and industry linkages play an important role in accounting for ﬂuctuations and comovements in aggregate and industry-level U.S. data, and I ﬁnd that the model’s common component of TFP is not correlated at business cycle frequencies with the standard measures of aggregate TFP used in the macroeconomic literature.
The magnitude of and heterogeneity in systematic earnings risk has important implications for various theories in macro, labor, and ﬁnancial economics. Using administrative data, we document how the aggregate risk exposure of individual earnings to GDP and stock returns varies across gender, age, the worker’s earnings level, and industry. Aggregate risk exposure is U-shaped with respect to the earnings level. In the middle of the earnings distribution, aggregate risk exposure is higher for males, younger workers, and those in construction and durable manufacturing. At the top of the earnings distribution, aggregate risk exposure is higher for older workers and those in ﬁnance. Workers in larger employers are less exposed to aggregate risk, but they are more exposed to a common factor in employer-level earnings, especially at the top of the earnings distribution. Within an employer, higher-paid workers have higher exposure to employer-level risk than lower-paid workers.
Starting in the early 1990s, countries in southern Europe experienced low productivity growth alongside declining real interest rates. We use data for manufacturing ﬁrms in Spain between 1999 and 2012 to document a signiﬁcant increase in the dispersion of the return to capital across ﬁrms, a stable dispersion of the return to labor, and a signiﬁcant increase in productivity losses from capital misallocation over time. We develop a model with size-dependent ﬁnancial frictions that is consistent with important aspects of ﬁrms’ behavior in production and balance sheet data. We illustrate how the decline in the real interest rate, often attributed to the euro convergence process, leads to a signiﬁcant decline in sectoral total factor productivity as capital inﬂows are misallocated toward ﬁrms that have higher net worth but are not necessarily more productive. We show that similar trends in dispersion and productivity losses are observed in Italy and Portugal but not in Germany, France, and Norway.
Before the advent of sophisticated international financial markets, a widely accepted belief was that within a monetary union, a union-wide authority orchestrating fiscal transfers between countries is necessary to provide adequate insurance against country-specific economic fluctuations. A natural question is then: Do sophisticated international financial markets obviate the need for such an active union-wide authority? We argue that they do. Specifically, we show that in a benchmark economy with no international financial markets, an activist union-wide authority is necessary to achieve desirable outcomes. With sophisticated financial markets, however, such an authority is unnecessary if its only goal is to provide cross-country insurance. Since restricting the set of policy instruments available to member countries does not create a fiscal externality across them, this result holds in a wide variety of settings. Finally, we establish that an activist union-wide authority concerned just with providing insurance across member countries is optimal only when individual countries are either unable or unwilling to pursue desirable policies
We explore the long-run demand for M1 based on a data set that has comprised 32 countries since 1851. In many cases, cointegration tests identify a long-run equilibrium relationship between either velocity and the short rate or M1, GDP, and the short rate. Evidence is especially strong for the United States and the United Kingdom over the entire period since World War I and for moderate and high-inflation countries.
With the exception of high-inflation countries–for which a “log-log” specification is preferred–the data often prefer the specification in the levels of velocity and the short rate originally estimated by Selden (1956) and Latané (1960). This is especially clear for the United States and other low-inflation countries.
We study a model with heterogeneous producers that face collateral and cash-in-advance constraints. A tightening of the collateral constraint results in a credit-crunch-generated recession that reproduces several features of the ﬁnancial crisis that unraveled in 2007 in the United States. The model can be used to study the effects of the credit-crunch on the main macroeconomic variables and the impact of alternative policies. The policy implications regarding forward guidance are in contrast with the prevalent view in most central banks, based on the New Keynesian explanation of the liquidity trap.
We document how export quantities and prices evolve after entry to a market. Controlling for marginal cost, and taking account of selection on idiosyncratic demand, there are economically and statistically significant dynamics of quantities, but no dynamics of prices. To match these facts, we estimate a model where firms invest in customer base through non-price actions (e.g. marketing and advertising), and learn gradually about their idiosyncratic demand. The model matches quantity, price and exit moments. Parameter estimates imply costs of adjusting investment in customer base, and slow learning about demand, both of which generate sluggish responses of sales to shocks.
What shapes the optimal degree of progressivity of the tax and transfer system? On the one hand, a progressive tax system can counteract inequality in initial conditions and substitute for imperfect private insurance against idiosyncratic earnings risk. On the other hand, progressivity reduces incentives to work and to invest in skills, distortions that are especially costly when the government must finance public goods. We develop a tractable equilibrium model that features all of these trade-offs. The analytical expressions we derive for social welfare deliver a transparent understanding of how preference, technology, and market structure parameters influence the optimal degree of progressivity. A calibration for the U.S. economy indicates that endogenous skill investment, flexible labor supply, and the desire to finance government purchases play quantitatively similar roles in limiting optimal progressivity. In a version of the model where poverty constrains skill investment, optimal progressivity is close to the U.S. value. An empirical analysis on cross-country data offers support to the theory.
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.
We study the optimal accumulation of international reserves in a quantitative model of sovereign default with long-term debt and a risk-free asset. Keeping higher levels of reserves provides a hedge against rollover risk, but this is costly because using reserves to pay down debt allows the government to reduce sovereign spreads. Our model, parameterized to mimic salient features of a typical emerging economy, can account for a significant fraction of the holdings of international reserves, and the larger accumulation of both debt and reserves in periods of low spreads and high income. We also show that income windfalls, improved policy frameworks, larger contingent liabilities, and an increase in the importance of rollover risk imply increases in the optimal holdings of reserves that are consistent with the upward trend in reserves in emerging economies. It is essential for our results that debt maturity exceeds one period.
Randomness in individual discovery tends to spread out productivities in a population, while learning from others keeps productivities together. In combination, these two mechanisms for knowledge accumulation give rise to long-term growth and persistent income inequality. This paper considers a world in which those with more useful knowledge can teach those with less useful knowledge, with competitive markets assigning students to teachers. In equilibrium, students who are able to learn quickly are assigned to teachers with the most productive knowledge. The long-run growth rate of this economy is governed by the rate at which the fastest learners can learn. The income distribution reflects learning ability and serendipity, both in individual discovery and in the assignment of students to teachers. Because of naturally arising indeterminacies in this assignment, payoff irrelevant characteristics can be predictors of individual income growth. Ability rents can be large when fast learners are scarce, when the process of individual discovery is not too noisy, and when overhead labor costs are low.
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.
We elaborate on the business cycle accounting method proposed by Chari, Kehoe, and McGrattan (2007), clear up some misconceptions about the method, and then apply it to compare the Great Recession across OECD countries as well as to the recessions of the 1980s in these countries. We have four main findings. First, with the notable exception of the United States, Spain, Ireland, and Iceland, the Great Recession was driven primarily by the efficiency wedge. Second, in the Great Recession, the labor wedge plays a dominant role only in the United States, and the investment wedge plays a dominant role in Spain, Ireland, and Iceland. Third, in the recessions of the 1980s, the labor wedge played a dominant role only in France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and New Zealand. Finally, overall in the Great Recession the efficiency wedge played a more important role and the investment wedge played a less important role than they did in the recessions of the 1980s.