I argue that Farmer and Guo's one-sector real business cycle model with indeterminacy and sunspots fails empirically and that its failure is inherent in the logic of the model taken together with some simple labor market facts.
We develop a theory of sweat equity—which is the value of business owners’ time and expenses to build customer bases, client lists, and other intangible assets. We discipline the theory using data from U.S. national accounts, business censuses, and brokered sales to estimate a value for sweat equity for the private business sector equal to 1.2 times U.S. GDP, which is roughly the value of fixed assets in use in these businesses. Although latent, the equity values are positively correlated with business incomes, ages, and standard measures of markups based on accounting data, but not with financial assets of owners or standard measures of business total factor productivity (TFP). We use our theory to show that abstracting from sweat activity leads to a significant understatement of the impacts of lowering tax rates on business incomes—on both the extensive and intensive margins. We also document large differences in the effective tax rates and the effects of tax changes for owner and employee labor inputs. Lower tax rates on owners results in increased self-employment and smaller firm sizes, whereas lower rates on employees has the opposite effects. Allowing for financial constraints and superstar firms does not overturn our main findings.
Does the pattern of social connections between individuals matter for macroeconomic outcomes? If so, where do these differences come from and how large are their effects? Using network analysis tools, we explore how different social network structures affect technology diffusion and thereby a country's rate of growth. The correlation between high-diffusion networks and income is strongly positive. But when we use a model to isolate the effect of a change in social networks, the effect can be positive, negative, or zero. The reason is that networks diffuse ideas and disease. Low-diffusion networks have evolved in countries where disease is prevalent because limited connectivity protects residents from epidemics. But a low-diffusion network in a low-disease environment needlessly compromises the diffusion of good ideas. In general, social networks have evolved to fit their economic and epidemiological environment. Trying to change networks in one country to mimic those in a higher-income country may well be counterproductive.
Recently, several economies with interest rates close to zero have received large capital inflows while their central banks accumulated large foreign reserves. Concurrently, significant deviations from covered interest parity have appeared. We show that, with limited international arbitrage, a central bank's pursuit of an exchange rate policy at the ZLB can explain these facts. We provide a measure of the costs associated with this policy and show they can be sizable. Changes in external conditions that increase capital inflows are detrimental, even when they are beneficial away from the ZLB. Negative nominal rates and capital controls can reduce the costs.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis is no longer maintaining a MF-VAR model. The June 3, 2016 forecast is the final update. Model documentation, files, and forecasts are available below.
The Minneapolis Mixed Frequency Vector Autoregression (MF-VAR) model of the U.S. economy is the most recent in a line of statistical forecasting models that began with research conducted at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota in the 1970s and early 1980s. Rising computer power led to resurgent interest in these models in the 1990s, which in turn brought about improvements along several dimensions. The current model reflects many of these advances. A noteworthy feature of the model is that it combines data measured at both monthly and quarterly frequencies so that forecasts reflect up-to-date monthly information as it becomes available. Please note that the forecasts produced by the MF-VAR model do not represent official forecasts of the Minneapolis Fed, its president, the Federal Reserve System, or the FOMC.
This memo describes a revision to the mixed-frequency vector autoregression (MF-VAR) model originally constructed by Schorfheide and Song (2012) and subsequently revised by Beauchemin (2013). In this most recent version, the 14-variable model is expanded to include nonfarm payroll employment. The forecast performance of the augmented model is compared with that of its predecessor.
Recent studies say prices change about every four months. Economists have interpreted this high frequency as evidence against the importance of sticky prices for the real effects of monetary policy. Theory implies that this interpretation is correct if most price changes are regular, but not if most are temporary, as in the data. Temporary changes have a striking feature: after such a change, the nominal price tends to return exactly to its preexisting level. We study versions of Calvo and menu cost models that replicate this feature. Both models predict that the degree of aggregate price stickiness is determined mostly by the frequency of regular price changes, not by the combined frequency of temporary and regular price changes. Since regular prices are sticky in the data, the models predict a substantial degree of aggregate price stickiness even though micro prices change frequently. In particular, the aggregate price level in our models is as sticky as in standard models in which micro prices change about once a year. In this sense, prices are sticky after all.
Search theory routinely assumes that decisions about the acceptance/rejection of job offers (and, hence, about labor market movements between jobs or across employment states) are made by individuals acting in isolation. In reality, the vast majority of workers are somewhat tied to their partners—in couples and families—and decisions are made jointly. This paper studies, from a theoretical viewpoint, the joint job-search and location problem of a household formed by a couple (e.g., husband and wife) who perfectly pools income. The objective of the exercise, very much in the spirit of standard search theory, is to characterize the reservation wage behavior of the couple and compare it to the single-agent search model in order to understand the ramifications of partnerships for individual labor market outcomes and wage dynamics. We focus on two main cases. First, when couples are risk averse and pool income, joint search yields new opportunities—similar to on-the-job search—relative to the single-agent search. Second, when the two spouses in a couple face job offers from multiple locations and a cost of living apart, joint search features new frictions and can lead to significantly worse outcomes than single-agent search.
In this paper, we construct a parsimonious overlapping-generations model of human capital accumulation and study its quantitative implications for the evolution of the U.S. wage distribution from 1970 to 2000. A key feature of the model is that individuals differ in their ability to accumulate human capital, which is the main source of wage inequality in this model. We examine the response of this model to skill-biased technical change (SBTC), which is modeled as an increase in the trend growth rate of the price of human capital starting in the early 1970s. The model displays behavior that is consistent with several important trends observed in the US data, including the rise in overall wage inequality; the fall and subsequent rise in the college premium, as well as the fact that this behavior was most pronounced for younger workers; the rise in within-group inequality; the stagnation in median wage growth; and the small rise in consumption inequality despite the large rise in wage inequality. We consider different scenarios regarding how individuals’ expectations evolve during SBTC. Specifically, we study the case where individuals immediately realize the advent of SBTC (perfect foresight), and the case where they initially underestimate the future growth of the price of human capital (pessimistic priors), but learn the truth in a Bayesian fashion over time. Lack of perfect foresight appears to have little effect on the main results of the paper. Overall, the model shows promise for explaining a diverse set of wage distribution trends observed since the 1970s in a unifying human capital framework.
We propose a model of delegated portfolio management with career concerns. Investors hire fund managers to invest their capital either in risky bonds or in riskless assets. Some managers have superior information on the default probability. Looking at the past performance, investors update beliefs on their managers and make firing decisions. This leads to career concerns which affect investment decisions, generating a positive or negative “reputational premium.” For example, when the default probability is high, the return on the risky bond has to be high to compensate the uninformed managers for the high risk of being fired. As the default probability changes over time, the reputational premium amplifies price volatility.
This paper uses an estimated structural model to argue that the option to move in and out of the parental home is an important insurance channel against labor market risk for youths who do not attend college. Using data from the NLSY97, I construct a new monthly panel of parent-youth coresidence outcomes and use it to document an empirical relationship between these movements and individual labor market events. The data is then used to estimate the parameters of a dynamic game between youths and their altruistic parents, featuring coresidence, labor supply and savings decisions. Parents can provide both monetary support through explicit financial transfers, and non-monetary support in the form of shared residence. To account for the data, two types of exogenous shocks are needed. Preference shocks are found to explain most of the cross-section of living arrangements, while labor market shocks account for individual movements in and out of the parental home. I use the model to show that coresidence is a valuable form of insurance, particularly for youths from poorer families. The option to live at home also helps to explain features of aggregate data for low-skilled young workers: their low savings rates and their relatively small consumption responses to labor market shocks. An important implication is that movements in and out of home can reduce the consumption smoothing benefits of social insurance programs.
This paper describes recent modifications to the mixed-frequency model vector autoregression (MF-VAR) constructed by Schorfheide and Song (2012). The changes to the model are restricted solely to the set of variables included in the model; all other aspects of the model remain unchanged. Forecast evaluations are conducted to gauge the accuracy of the revised model to standard benchmarks and the original model.
This paper develops a vector autoregression (VAR) for macroeconomic time series which are observed at mixed frequencies – quarterly and monthly. The mixed-frequency VAR is cast in state-space form and estimated with Bayesian methods under a Minnesota-style prior. Using a real-time data set, we generate and evaluate forecasts from the mixed-frequency VAR and compare them to forecasts from a VAR that is estimated based on data time-aggregated to quarterly frequency. We document how information that becomes available within the quarter improves the forecasts in real time.
This appendix contains seven sections. Section A reports results from running regressions of labor earnings on GDP using data from the PSID, for comparison with the results using HRS data in the body of the paper. Section B examines the relationship between family income, aggregate shocks, and risk preferences in the PSID. Section C gives technical details on the Markov Chain Monte Carlo estimation employed in table 1 of the paper and reports the complete parameter estimates for the regressions summarized in that table. Section D reports results when the relationship between earnings and aggregate shocks is estimated with individual-specific coecients rather than common coecients for each risk-tolerance group. Section E reports results comparable to table 1 of the paper and table D.1 of this appendix using only Social Security covered earnings instead of the
combination of Social Security and W-2 earnings. Section F reports robustness checks for tables 2 and 3 of the paper under alternative definitions of the household and the consumption and income variables. Section G reports robustness checks for tables 2 and 3 under an alternative definition of the leisure variable.
Three of the arguments made by Temin (2008) in his review of Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century are demonstrably wrong: that the treatment of the data in the volume is cursory; that the definition of great depressions is too general and, in particular, groups slow growth experiences in Latin America in the 1980s with far more severe great depressions in Europe in the 1930s; and that the book is an advertisement for the real business cycle methodology. Without these three arguments — which are the results of obvious conceptual and arithmetical errors, including copying the wrong column of data from a source — his review says little more than that he does not think it appropriate to apply our dynamic general equilibrium methodology to the study of great depressions, and he does not like the conclusion that we draw: that a successful model of a great depression needs to be able to account for the effects of government policy on productivity.
In 2008, Peter Temin wrote a review of the book that appeared in the Journal of Economic Literature. This staff report and accompanying data file are in response to the review.
Citation for review: Temin, Peter. 2008. "Real Business Cycle Views of the Great Depression and Recent Events: A Review of Timothy J. Kehoe and Edward C. Prescott's Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century." Journal of Economic Literature, 46 (3): 669-84. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.46.3.669
Working Papers are early drafts of academic research papers written by economists affiliated with the Minneapolis Fed. Working Papers are often preprints of articles that are published in scholarly journals. Many Working Papers later become Staff Reports. The Research Database is the official location for this series, but you can also find them on the Minneapolis Fed website, IDEAS/RePEc, and in EconLit.
This paper examines the reliability of widely used surveys on U.S. businesses. We compare survey responses of business owners with administrative data and document large inconsistencies in business incomes, receipts, and the number of owners. We document problems due to nonrepresentative samples and measurement errors. Nonrepresentativeness is reflected in undersampling of owners with low incomes. Measurement errors arise because respondents do not refer to relevant documents and possibly because of framing issues. We discuss implications for statistics of interest, such as business valuations and returns. We conclude that predictions based on current survey data should be treated with caution.
We examine the quantitative impact of policy-induced changes in innovative investment by firms on growth in aggregate productivity and output in a model that nests several of the canonical models in the literature. We isolate two statistics, the impact elasticity of aggregate productivity growth with respect to an increase in aggregate innovative investment and the degree of intertemporal knowledge spillovers in research, that play a key role in shaping the model’s predicted dynamic response of aggregate productivity, output, and welfare to a policy-induced change in the innovation intensity of the economy. Given estimates of these statistics, we find that there is only modest scope for increasing aggregate productivity and output over a 20-year horizon with uniform subsidies to firms’ investments in innovation of a reasonable magnitude, but the welfare gains from such a subsidy may be substantial.
In all markets, firms go through a process of creative destruction: entry, random growth and exit. In many of these markets there are also regulations that restrict entry, possibly distorting this process. We study the public interest rationale for entry taxes in a general equilibrium model with free entry and exit of firms in which firm dynamics are driven by reputation concerns. In our model firms can produce
high-quality output by making a costly but efficient initial unobservable investment. If buyers never learn about this investment, an extreme “lemons problem” develops, no firm invests, and the market shuts down. Learning introduces reputation incentives such that a fraction of entrants do invest. We show that, if the market operates with spot prices, entry taxes always enhance the role of reputation to induce investment, improving welfare despite the impact of these taxes on equilibrium prices and total production.
The U.S. Great Recession featured a large decline in output and labor, tighter financial conditions, and a large increase in firm growth dispersion. We build a model in which increased volatility at the firm level generates a downturn and worsened credit conditions. The key idea is that hiring inputs is risky because financial frictions limit firms' ability to insure against shocks. An increase in volatility induces firms to reduce their inputs to reduce such risk. Out model can generate most of the decline in output and labor in the Great Recession and the observed increase in firms' interest rate spreads.
We develop a new methodology to compute differences in the expected longevity of individuals who are in different socioeconomic groups at age 50. We deal with two main problems associated with the standard use of life expectancy: that people’s socioeconomic characteristics evolve over time and that there is a time trend that reduces mortality over time. Using HRS data for individuals from different cohorts, we estimate a hazard model for survival with time-varying stochastic endogenous covariates that yields the desired expected durations. We uncover an enormous amount of heterogeneity in expected longevities between individuals in different socioeconomic groups, albeit less than implied by a naive (static) use of socioeconomic characteristics. Our analysis allows us to decompose the longevity differentials into differences in health at age 50, differences in mortality conditional on health, and differences in the evolution of health with age. Remarkably, it is the latter that is the most important for most socioeconomic characteristics. For instance, education and wealth are health protecting but have little impact on two-year mortality rates conditional on health. Finally, we document an increasing time trend of all these differentials in the period 1992–2008, and a likely increase in the socioeconomic gradient in mortality rates in the near future. The mortality differences that we find have huge welfare implications that dwarf the differences in consumption accruing to people in different socioeconomic groups.
Building on the Merton (1974) and Leland (1994) structural models of credit risk, we develop a simple, transparent, and robust method for measuring the financial soundness of individual firms using data on their equity volatility. We use this method to retrace quantitatively the history of firms’ financial soundness during U.S. business cycles over most of the last century. We highlight three main findings. First, the three worst recessions between 1926 and 2012 coincided with insolvency crises, but other recessions did not. Second, fluctuations in asset volatility appear to drive variation in firms’ financial soundness. Finally, the financial soundness of financial firms largely resembles that of nonfinancial firms.
We study fiscal and monetary policy in a monetary union with the potential for rollover crises in sovereign debt markets. Member-country fiscal authorities lack commitment to repay their debt and choose fiscal policy independently. A common monetary authority chooses inflation for the union, also without commitment. We first describe the existence of a fiscal externality that arises in the presence of limited commitment and leads countries to over-borrow; this externality rationalizes the imposition of debt ceilings in a monetary union. We then investigate the impact of the composition of debt in a monetary union, that is the fraction of high-debt versus low-debt members, on the occurrence of self-fulfilling debt crises. We demonstrate that a high-debt country may be less vulnerable to crises and have higher welfare when it belongs to a union with an intermediate mix of high- and low-debt members, than one where all other members are low-debt. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that all countries should prefer a union with low-debt members, as such a union can credibly deliver low inflation. These findings shed new light on the criteria for an optimal currency area in the presence of rollover crises.
We use unique price data to study how retailers react to underlying cost changes. Temporary sales account for 95% of price changes in our data. Simple models would, therefore, suggest that temporary sales play a central role in price responses to cost shocks. We find, however, that, in response to a wholesale cost increase, the entire increase in retail prices comes through regular price increases. Sales actually respond temporarily in the opposite direction from regular prices, as though to conceal the price hike. Additional evidence from responses to commodity cost and local unemployment shocks, as well as broader evidence from BLS data reinforces these findings. We present institutional evidence that sales are complex contingent contracts, determined substantially in advance. We show theoretically that these institutional practices leave little money “on the table”: in a price-discrimination model of sales, dynamically adjusting the size of sales yields only a tiny increase in profits.
The flow opportunity cost of moving from unemployment to employment consists of foregone public benefits and the foregone value of non-working time in units of consumption. We construct a time series of the opportunity cost of employment using detailed microdata and administrative or national accounts data to estimate benefit levels, eligibility and take-up of benefits, consumption by labor force status, hours per worker, taxes, and preference parameters. Our estimated opportunity cost is procyclical and volatile over the business cycle. The estimated cyclicality implies far less unemployment volatility in many leading models of the labor market than that observed in the data, irrespective of the level of the opportunity cost.
The puzzling behavior of inflation in the Great Recession and its aftermath has increased the need to better understand the constraints that firms face when setting prices. Using new data and theory, I demonstrate that each firm's choice of how much information to acquire to set prices determines aggregate price dynamics through the patterns of pricing at the micro level, and through the large heterogeneity in pricing policies across firms. Viewed through this lens, the behavior of prices in recent years becomes less puzzling, as firms endogenously adjust their information acquisition strategies. In support of this mechanism, I present micro evidence that firms price goods using plans that are sticky, coarse, and volatile. A theory of information-constrained price setting generates such policies endogenously, and quantitatively matches the discreteness, duration, volatility, and heterogeneity of policies in the data. Policies track the state noisily, resulting in sluggish adjustment to shocks. A higher volatility of shocks does not reduce monetary non-neutrality and generates slight inflation, while progress in the technology to acquire information results in deflation.
This paper constructs a dynamic model in which fiscal restrictions interact with government borrowing and default. The government faces fiscal constraints; it cannot adjust tax rates or impose lump-sum taxes on the private sector, but it can adjust public consumption and foreign debt. When foreign debt is sufficiently high, however, the government can choose to default to increase domestic public and private consumption by freeing up the resources used to pay the debt. Two types of defaults arise in this environment: fiscal defaults and aggregate defaults. Fiscal defaults occur because of the government's inability to raise tax revenues. Aggregate defaults occur even if the government could raise tax revenues; debt is simply too high to be sustainable. In a quantitative exercise calibrated to Greece, we find that our model can predict the recent default, but that increasing taxes would not have prevented it. In fact, increasing taxes would have made the recession deeper because of the distortionary effects of taxation.
Many countries are facing challenging fiscal financing issues as their populations age and the number of workers per retiree falls. Policymakers need transparent and robust analyses of alternative policies to deal with demographic changes. In this paper, we propose a simple framework that can easily be matched to aggregate data from the national accounts. We demonstrate the usefulness of our framework by comparing quantitative results for our aggregate model with those of a related model that includes within-age-cohort heterogeneity through productivity differences. When we assess proposals to switch from the current tax and transfer system in the United States to a mandatory saving-for-retirement system with no payroll taxation, we find that the aggregate predictions for the two models are close.
During the Great Recession, regions of the United States that experienced the largest declines in household debt also experienced the largest drops in consumption, employment, and wages. Employment declines were larger in the nontradable sector and for firms that were facing the worst credit conditions. Motivated by these findings, we develop a search and matching model with credit frictions that affect both consumers and firms. In the model, tighter debt constraints raise the cost of investing in new job vacancies and thus reduce worker job finding rates and employment. Two key features of our model, on-the-job human capital accumulation and consumer-side credit frictions, are critical to generating sizable drops in employment. On-the-job human capital accumulation makes the flows of benefits from posting vacancies long-lived and so greatly amplifies the sensitivity of such investments to credit frictions. Consumer-side credit frictions further magnify these effects by leading wages to fall only modestly. We show that the model reproduces well the salient cross-regional features of the U.S. data during the Great Recession.
The recurrent banking panics of the 19th century and the Great Depression of the 1930s are widely viewed as failures of our economic system. A simple version of Samuelson’s overlapping generations model is used to generate such failures of Walrasian equilibrium. The spontaneous “panics” generated involve a collapse of bank credit, causing in turn a drop in investment demand. The model suggests that both the recent technological advances in the intermediation industry and the current move towards deregulation of that industry are ominous developments.
This paper presents a frequency-domain technique for estimating distributed lag coefficients (the impulse-response function) when observations are randomly missed. The technique treats stationary processes with randomly missed observations as amplitude-modulated processes and estimates the transfer function accordingly. Estimates of the lag coefficients are obtained by taking the inverse transform of the estimated transfer function. Results with artificially created data show that the technique performs well even when the probability of an observation being missed is one-half and in some cases when the probability is as low as one-fifth. The approximate asymptotic variance of the estimator is also calculated in the paper.
This paper describes a technique for distributing quarterly time series across monthly values. The method generalizes an approach described by Fernandez (1981). The paper also presents results of a test of the accuracy of these two approaches and two standard procedures suggested by Chow and Lin (1971).
Doan, Litterman, and Sims (DLS) have suggested using conditional forecasts to do policy analysis with Bayesian vector autoregression (BVAR) models. Their method seems to violate the Lucas critique, which implies that coefficients of a BVAR model will change when there is a change in policy rules. In this paper we construct a BVAR macro model and attempt to determine whether the Lucas critique is important quantitatively. We find evidence following two candidate policy rule changes of significant coefficient instability and of a deterioration in the performance of the DLS method.
During the period 1870–1913, Canada had a well-diversified branch banking system while banks in the U.S. unit banking system were less diversified. Canadian banks could issue large-denomination notes with no restrictions on their backing, while all U.S. currency was essentially an obligation of the U.S. government. Also, experience in the two countries with regard to bank failures and banking panics was quite different. A general equilibrium business cycle model with endogenous financial intermediation is constructed that captures these historical Canadian and American monetary and banking arrangements as special cases. The predictions of the model contradict conventional wisdom with regard to the cyclical effects of banking panics. Support for these predictions is found in aggregate annual time series data for Canada and the United States.
We find support for a negative relation between conditional expected monthly return and conditional variance of monthly return, using a GARCH-M model modified by allowing (i) seasonal patterns in volatility, (ii) positive and negative innovations to returns having different impacts on conditional volatility, and (iii) nominal interest rates to predict conditional variance. Using the modified GARCH-M model, we also show that monthly conditional volatility may not be as persistent as was thought. Positive unanticipated returns appear to result in a downward revision of the conditional volatility whereas negative unanticipated returns result in an upward revision of conditional volatility.
In this paper we develop alternative ways to compare asset pricing models when it is understood that their implied stochastic discount factors do not price all portfolios correctly. Unlike comparisons based on chi-squared statistics associated with null hypotheses that models are correct, our measures of model performance do not reward variability of discount factor proxies. One of our measures is designed to exploit fully the implications of arbitrage-free pricing of derivative claims. We demonstrate empirically the usefulness of methods in assessing some alternative stochastic factor models that have been proposed in asset pricing literature.
This paper considers the role of capacity as a strategic entry deterrent for a game in which the incumbent and entrant sequentially precommit to capacity levels before competing in price, possibly using mixed strategies. Depending on the magnitudes of the fixed set-up cost, the cost of capacity, and the relative costs of production, the model produces a wide spectrum of equilibrium behaviors, including some not previously suggested in the literature. Interesting deterrence effects occur because firms need time to build. In contrast to much previous work, the incumbent may hold idle capacity when entry is deterred.
We argue that the rationalization gains often predicted by static applied general equilibrium models with imperfect competition and scale economies are artificially boosted by an unrealistic treatment of fixed costs. We introduce sunk costs into one such model calibrated with real-world data. We show how this changes the oligopoly game in a way significant enough to affect, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the outcome of a trade liberalization exercise.
This paper presents a model of cumulative innovation where firms are heterogeneous in their research ability. We study the optimal reward policy when the quality of the ideas and their subsequent development effort are private information. The optimal assignment of property rights must counterbalance the incentives of current and future innovators. The resulting mechanism resembles a menu of patents that have infinite duration and fixed scope, where the latter increases in the value of the idea. Finally, we provide a way to implement this patent menu by using a simple buyout scheme: The innovator commits at the outset to a price ceiling at which he will sell his rights to a future inventor. By paying a larger fee initially, a higher price ceiling is obtained. Any subsequent innovator must pay this price and purchase its own buyout fee contract.
Previous research has suggested that discrete and occasional plant-level capital adjustments have significant aggregate implications. In particular, it has been argued that changes in plants’ willingness to invest in response to aggregate shocks can at times generate large movements in total investment demand. In this study, I re-assess these predictions in a general equilibrium environment. Specifically, assuming nonconvex costs of capital adjustment, I derive generalized (S,s) adjustment rules yielding lumpy plant-level investment within an otherwise standard equilibrium business cycle model. In contrast to previous partial equilibrium analyses, model results reveal that the aggregate effects of lumpy investment are negligible. In general equilibrium, households’ preference for relatively smooth consumption profiles offsets changes in aggregate investment demand implied by the introduction of lumpy plant-level investment. As a result, adjustments in wages and interest rates yield quantity dynamics that are virtually indistinguishable from the standard model.
We construct a competitive model of innovation and growth under constant returns to scale. Previous models of growth under constant returns cannot model technological innovation. Current models of endogenous innovation rely on the interplay between increasing returns and monopolistic markets. In fact, established wisdom claims monopoly power to be instrumental for innovation and sees the nonrivalrous nature of ideas as a natural conduit to increasing returns. The results here challenge the positive description of previous models and the normative conclusion that monopoly through copyright and patent is socially beneficial.
In this paper, we show that ignoring corporate intangible investments gives a distorted picture of the post-1990 U.S. economy. In particular, ignoring intangible investments in the late 1990s leads one to conclude that productivity growth was modest, corporate profits were low, and corporate investment was at moderate levels. In fact, the late 1990s was a boom period for productivity growth, corporate profits, and corporate investment.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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.
Staff Reports are a series of academic research papers written by economists affiliated with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Staff Reports are often preprints of articles that are later published in scholarly journals. The Research Database is the official location for this series, but you can also find them on the Minneapolis Fed website, IDEAS/RePEc, and in EconLit.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This paper presents a full characterization of the equilibrium value set of a Ramsey tax model. More generally, it develops a dynamic programming method for a class of policy games between the government and a continuum of consumers. By selectively incorporating Euler conditions into a strategic dynamic programming framework, we wed two technologies that are usually considered competing alternatives, resulting in a dramatic simplification of the problem.
This paper presents a full characterization of the equilibrium value set of a Ramsey tax model. More generally, it develops a dynamic programming method for a class of policy games between the government and a continuum of consumers. By selectively incorporating Euler conditions into a strategic dynamic programming framework, we wed two technologies that are usually considered competing alternatives, resulting in a dramatic simplification of the problem.