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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis working papers are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critial comment.

Applied Microeconomics

National and Regional Housing Vacancy: Insights Using Markov-switching Models

Abstract We examine housing vacancy rates over time and space using Markov-switching models. Our theoretical analysis extends a standard search and matching model for housing by incorporating regime-switching behavior and interregional spillovers. Such an approach is strongly supported by our empirical results. Our estimations allow us to examine differences in vacancy rates as well as explore the possibility of asymmetries within and across housing markets, depending on the state/regime of a given housing market. Estimated vacancy rates, conditional on the vacancy regime, vary across regions in all models. Models allowing for interregional effects tend to perform better than models lacking this feature. These models track vacancies well. Noteworthy is their performance during the Great Recession/Financial Crisis. The importance and diversity of interregional effects are demonstrated, and vacancies in a specific Census region are affected by vacancies in other regions. Moreover, the sizes of these effects depend on the vacancy state of the specific region.

Truncated Firm Productivity Distributions and Trade Margins

A standard theoretical prediction is that average exports are independent of tariff rates when the underlying distribution of firm productivities is assumed to be the widely-used Pareto distribution. Assuming that the underlying distribution has no upper bound is undoubtedly inaccurate and produces theoretical results at odds with empirical results. In contrast, we show that upper-truncation of the Pareto distribution makes average exports rise with trade liberalization. This result is derived analytically, and is supported by simulations. We extend our analysis to the cases of lognormal and Fréchet distributions, which are also frequently used by trade economists. Our findings for lognormal and Fréchet distributions are qualitatively similar to the findings using the truncated Pareto.

Terms-of-Trade and Counterterrorism Externalities

This paper investigates the interplay of trade and terrorism externalities under free trade between a developed nation that exports a manufactured good to and imports a primary product from a developing nation. A terrorist organization targets both nations and reduces its attacks in response to a nation’s defensive counterterrorism efforts, while transferring some of its attacks abroad. Terms-of-trade considerations lead the developed nation to raise its counterterrorism level beyond the “small-country” level, thus compounding its overprovision of these measures. By contrast, the developing nation limits its defensive countermeasures below that of the small-country level. This asymmetry is a novel finding. The analysis is extended to include proactive countermeasures to weaken the terrorist group. Again, the developed country raises its efforts owing to the terms-of-trade externality, which now opposes the underprovision associated with proactive efforts. A sec ond extension allows for several developing-country exporters of the primary product.

Airport Noise in Atlanta: The Inequality of Sound

We examine how changes in the geographic concentrations of Hispanic and African-American populations are correlated with changes in probabilities of airport noise, in Atlanta, during 2003 and 2012. We estimate ordered probit and locally weighted ordered probit regressions for three different noise categories to determine the correlations between these two demographic groups and the aircraft noise levels experienced by people in individual houses that sold. Then we determine the average coefficient for all houses sold in each Census block group, and we plot each year’s coefficients for each block group against the percentiles of the minority population. While the absolute level of noise has declined over the geographic area considered in 2012 compared with 2003, we find that the distribution of noise coefficients among Hispanics and blacks became more inequitable in 2012 compared with 2003. At least two potential mechanisms could generate these correlations. Due to residential mobility, income and preferences could combine to produce a concentration of minorities in certain neighborhoods. Or, perhaps noisier flight paths are imposed upon higher minority neighborhoods as a result of discrimination. Our findings contribute to the broader literature on environmental justice, even though we cannot definitively infer the mechanisms at work.

The Effects of Terror on International Air Passenger Transport: An Empirical Invstigation

This paper presents a theoretical model (adapted from the structural gravity model by Anderson and van Wincoop, 2003) to capture the effects of terrorism on air passenger traffic between nations affected by terrorism. We then use equations derived from this model, in conjunction with alternative functional forms for trade costs, to estimate the effects of terrorism on bilateral air passenger flows from 57 source countries to 25 destination countries for the period of 2000 to 2014. We find that an additional terrorist incident results in approximately a 1.2% decrease in the bilateral air passenger transport per unit distance while doubling of the accumulated terrorist incidents during the past 5 years reduces it by 18%. Terrorism adversely impacts the bilateral air passenger transport per unit distance both by reducing national output and especially by increasing psychological distress, which could be an important contributing factor in perceived travel costs. Last but not the least, we show that the responsiveness of international air travel to terrorism critically depends on the nature of the terrorist attacks. Specifically, international air passenger transport is found to be extremely sensitive to fatal terrorist attacks and terrorist attacks of targets such as airports, transportation or tourists.

Training and Search On the Job

The paper studies human capital accumulation over workers’ careers in an on the job search setting with heterogenous firms. In renegotiation proof employment con- tracts, more productive firms provide more training. Both general and specific training induce higher wages within jobs, and with future employers, even conditional on the future employer type. Because matches do not internalize the specific capital loss from employer changes, specific human capital can be over-accumulated, more so in low type firms. While validating the Acemoglu and Pischke (1999) mechanisms, the analysis nevertheless arrives at the opposite conclusion: That increased labor market friction reduces training in equilibrium.

Of Cities and Slums

The emergence of slums is a common feature in a country''s path towards urbanization, structural transformation and development. Based on salient micro and macro evidence of Brazilian labor, housing and education markets, we construct a simple model to examine the conditions for slums to emerge. We then use the model to examine whether slums are barriers or stepping stones for lower skilled households and for the development of the country as a whole. We calibrate our model to explore the dynamic interaction between skill formation, income inequality and structural transformation with the rise (and potential fall) of slums in Brazil. We then conduct policy counterfactuals. For instance, we find that cracking down on slums could slow down the acquisition of human capital, the growth of cities (outside slums) and non-agricultural employment. The impact of reducing housing barriers to entry into cities and of different forms of school integration between the city and the slums is also explored.

Vocational Considerations and Trends in Social Security Disability

Along with health, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) evaluates work-limiting disability by considering vocational factors including age, education, and past work experience. As the number of SSDI applicants and awards has increased, these vocational criteria are increasingly important to acceptances and denials. A unique state-level dataset allows us to estimate how these factors relate to the SSDI award process. These estimates are used to asses how changes to the demographic and occupational composition have contributed to awards trends. In our results, the prevalence of workers in their 50s are especially important. Further, increasing educational attainment lowers applications and vocational awards.

Persistence of Shocks and the Reallocation of Labor

This paper proposes a theoretical and quantitative analysis of the reallocation of labor across firms in response to idiosyncratic shocks of different persistence. Creating and destroying jobs is costly and workers are paid a share of the value of the marginal worker. The model predicts that employment and labor costs react differently to transitory shocks and permanent shocks. Quantitative evaluation of the model on a panel of French firms shows the model’s performance. Modest adjustment costs are needed to reproduce observed job reallocation and inaction rates. Removing adjustment costs leads to productivity gains of 1% at the steady state. These gains are 50% larger in a economy with only transitory shocks and an order of magnitude lower in an economy with only permanent shocks. Bargaining dampens the reallocation of labor across firms, leading to larger efficiency losses from adjustment costs.

Effects of Credit Supply on Unemployment and Inequality

The Great Recession, which was preceded by the financial crisis, resulted in higher unemployment and inequality. We propose a simple model where firms producing varieties face labor-market frictions and credit constraints. In the model, tighter credit leads to lower output, lower number of vacancies, and higher directed-search unemployment. Where workers are more productive at higher levels of firm output, lower credit supply increases firm capital intensity, raises inequality by increasing the rental of capital relative to the wage, and has an ambiguous effect on welfare. At initial high levels of labor share in total costs tighter credit lowers welfare. This pattern reverses during an expansionary phase caused by higher credit availability.

Optimal Taxation, Marriage, Home Production, and Family Labor Supply

An empirical approach to optimal income taxation design is developed within an equilibrium collective marriage market model with imperfectly transferable utility. Taxes distort labour supply and time allocation decisions, as well as marriage market outcomes, and the within household decision process. Using data from the American Community Survey and American Time Use Survey, we structurally estimate our model and explore empirical design problems. We consider the optimal design problem when the planner is able to condition taxes on marital status, as in the U.S. tax code, but we allow the schedule for married couples to have an arbitrary form of tax jointness. Our results suggest that the optimal tax system for married couples is characterized by negative jointness, although the welfare gains from this jointness are shown to be quite modest.

Network Search: Climbing the Job Ladder Faster

We introduce an irregular network structure into a model of frictional, on-the-job search in which workers find jobs through their network connections or directly from firms. We show that jobs found through network search have wages that stochastically dominate those found through direct contact. In irregular networks, heterogeneity in the worker''s position within the network leads to heterogeneity in wage and employment dynamics: better-connected workers climb the job ladder faster. Despite this rich heterogeneity from the network structure, the mean-field approach allows the problem of our workers to be formulated tractably and recursively. We then calibrate a quantitative version of our mechanism, showing it is consistent with several empirical findings regarding networks and labor markets: jobs found through networks have higher wages and last longer. Finally, we present new evidence consistent with our model that job-to-job switches at higher rungs of the ladder are more likely to use networks.

Estimating Border Effects: the Impact of Spatial Aggregation

Trade data are typically reported at the level of regions or countries and are therefore aggregates across space. In this paper, we investigate the sensitivity of standard gravity estimation to spatial aggregation. We build a model in which initially symmetric micro regions are combined to form aggregated macro regions. We then apply the model to the large literature on border effects in domestic and international trade. Our theory shows that larger countries are systematically associated with smaller border effects. The reason is that due to spatial frictions, aggregation across space increases the relative cost of trading within borders. The cost of trading across borders therefore appears relatively smaller. This mechanism leads to border effect heterogeneity and is independent of multilateral resistance effects in general equilibrium. Even if no border frictions exist at the micro level, gravity estimation on aggregate data can still produce large border effects. We test our theory on domestic and international trade flows at the level of U.S. states. Our results confirm the model’s predictions, with quantitatively large effects.

Local and Aggregate Fiscal Policy Multipliers

In this paper, we estimate the effect of defense spending on the U.S. macroeconomy since World War II. First, we construct a new panel dataset of state-level federal defense contracts. Second, we sum observations across states and, using the resulting time series, estimate the aggregate effect of defense spending on national income and employment via instrumental variables. Third, we estimate local multipliers using the state-level data, which measures the relative effect on economic activity due to relative differences in defense spending across states. Comparing the aggregate and local multiplier estimates, we find that the two deliver similar results, providing a case in which local multiplier estimates may be reliable indicators of the aggregate effects of fiscal policy. We also estimate spillovers using interstate commodity flow data and find some evidence of small positive spillovers, which explain part of the (small) difference between the estimated local and aggregate multipliers. Across a wide range of specifications, we estimate income and employment multipliers between zero and 0.5. We reconcile this result with the greater-than-one multipliers found in Nakamura and Steinsson (2014) by analyzing the impact of the Korean War episode in the estimation.

Terrorism, Trade and Welfare: Some Paradoxes and a Policy Conundrum

We present a standard trade model and show that terrorism can be trade inducing, starting from autarky. In addition, terrorism can be shown to be welfare augmenting for a group of nations. Finally, we present some qualitative conditions that identify when a nation’s trade volume may rise (or fall) in response to a greater incidence of terrorism. Our trade and welfare results point to potential difficulties in international coordination of counterterrorism policy because of terrorism’s differential impact across nations.

Trade and Terrorism: A Disaggregated Approach

This paper constructs a model of trade consequences of terrorism, where firms in trading nations face different costs arising from domestic and transnational terrorism. Using dyadic dataset in a gravity model, we test terrorism’s effects on overall trade, exports, and imports, while allowing for disaggregation by primary commodities and manufacturing goods. While terrorism has little or no influence on trade of primary products, terrorism reduces trade of manufactured goods. This novel finding pinpoints the avenue by which terrorism harms trade and suggests why previous studies that looked at all trade found modest impacts. Moreover, the detrimental effect of transnational terrorism on total manufactured trade, exports, and imports as well as on various classes of manufactured trade is substantially larger than that of domestic terrorism. Generally, this adverse impact is more pronounced for imports than for exports.

Interlocked Excecutives and Insider Board Members: an Empirical Analysis

This paper asked the question of whether the behavior and compensation of interlocked executives and non-independent board of directors are consistent with the hypothesis of governance problem or whether this problem is mitigated by implicit and market incentives. It then analyzes the role of independent board of directors. Empirically, we cannot reject the hypothesis that executives in companies with a large number of non-independent directors on the board receive the same expected compensation as other executives. In our model, every executive has an incentive to work. Placing more of non-independent directors on the board mitigates gross losses to the firm should any one of them shirk because they monitor each other. It also reduces the net benefits from shirking and increases the gross value of the firm from greater coordination (reflected in the firm’s equity value and thus impounded into its financial returns). Therefore having a greater non-independent director representation on the board create a more challenging signaling problem to solve thereby raising the risk premium. However, giving more votes on the board to non-independent executives fosters better executive working conditions, which in turn offsets the higher risk premium in pay by a lower certainty-equivalent wage in equilibrium. Thus, our estimates undergird a plausible explanation of how large shareholders determine the number of insiders on the board to maximize the expected value of their equity. We then conduct counterfactual policy experiment imposing 50% upper bound on the fraction of insiders on the board and another counterfactual imposing 40% quotas for women on the boards.

Multidimensional Skill Mismatch

What determines the earnings of a worker relative to his peers in the same occupation? What makes a worker fail in one occupation but succeed in another? More broadly, what are the factors that determine the productivity of a worker occupation match? To help answer questions like these, we propose an empirical measure of multidimensional skill mismatch, which is based on the discrepancy between the portfolio of skills required by an occupation and the portfolio of abilities possessed by a worker for learning those skills. This measure arises naturally in a dynamic model of occupational choice and human capital accumulation with multidimensional skills and Bayesian learning about one’s ability to learn skills. Not only does mismatch depress wage growth in the current occupation, it also leaves a scarring effect—by stunting skill acquisition—that reduces wages in future occupations. Mismatch also predicts different aspects of occupational switching behavior. We construct the empirical analog of our skill mismatch measure from readily available US panel data on individuals and occupations and find empirical support for these implications. The magnitudes of these effects are large: moving from the worst- to the best-matched decile can improve wages by 11% per year for the rest of one’s career.

Estimation of Dynastic Life-Cycle Discrete Choice Models

This paper explores the estimation of a class of life-cycle discrete choice intergenerational models. It proposes a new semiparametric estimator. It shows that it is root-n-consistent and asymptotically normally distributed. We compare our estimator with a modified version of the full solution maximum likelihood estimator (MLE) in a Monte Carlo study. Our estimator performs comparably to the MLE in a finite sample but greatly reduces the computational cost. The paper documents that the quantity-quality trade-offs depend on the household composition and specialization in the household. Using the proposed estimator, we estimate a dynastic model that rationalizes these observed patterns.

What is the source of the intergenerational correlation in earnings?

This paper uses a dynastic model of household behavior to estimate and decomposed the correlations in earnings across generations. The estimate model can explain 75% to 80% of the observed correlation in lifetime earnings between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, and families across generations. The main results are that the family and division of labor within the household are the main source of the correlation across generation and not just assorting mating. The interaction of human capital accumulation in labor market, the nonlinear return to part-time versus full-time work, and the return parental time investment in children are the main driving force behind the intergenerational correlation in earnings and assortative mating just magnify these forces.

What Accounts for the Racial Gap in Time Allocation andIntergenerational Transmission of Human Capital?

This paper analyzes the sources of the racial difference in the intergenerational transmission of human capital by developing and estimating a dynastic model of parental time and monetary inputs in early childhood with endogenous fertility, home hours, labor supply, marriage, and divorce. It finds that the racial differences in the marriage matching patterns lead to racial differences in labor supply and home hours of couples. Although both the black-white labor market earnings and marriage market gaps are important sources of the black-white achievement gap, the assortative mating and divorce probabilities racial gaps accounts for a larger fraction of it.

Was Sarbanes-Oxley Costly? Evidence from Optimal Contracting on CEO Compensation.

This paper investigates the effects of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) on CEO compensation, using panel data constructed for the S&P 1500 firms on CEO compensation, financial returns, and reported accounting income. Empirically SOX (i) changes the relationship between a firm’s abnormal returns and CEO compensation, (ii) changes the underlying distribution of abnormal returns, and (iii) significantly raises the expected CEO compensation in the primary sector. We develop and estimate a dynamic principal agent model of hidden information and hidden actions to explain these regularities. We find that SOX (i) increased the administrative burden of compliance in the primary sector, but reduce this burden in the service sector, (ii) increased agency costs in most categories of the firms, and (iii) reduced the off-equilibrium loss from the CEO shirking.

Local Polynomial Regressions versus OLS for Generating Location Value Estimates: Which is More Efficient in Out-of-Sample Forecasts?

As an alternative to ordinary least squares (OLS), we estimate location values for single family houses using a standard housing price and characteristics dataset by local polynomial regressions (LPR), a semi-parametric procedure. We also compare the LPR and OLS models in the Denver metropolitan area in the years 2003, 2006 and 2010 with out-of-sample forecasting. We determine that the LPR model is more efficient than OLS at predicting location values in counties with greater densities of sales. Also, LPR outperforms OLS in 2010 for all 5 counties in our dataset. Our findings suggest that LPR is a preferable approach in areas with greater concentrations of sales and in periods of recovery following a financial crisis.

Schools and Stimulus

This paper analyzes the impact of the education funding component of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act) on public school districts. We use cross- Sectional differences in district-level Recovery Act funding to investigate the program''s impact on staffing, expenditures and debt accumulation. To achieve identification, we use exogenous variation across districts in the allocations of Recovery Act funds for special needs students. We estimate that $1 million of grants to a district had the following effects: expenditures increased by $570 thousand, district employment saw little or no change, and an additional $370 thousand in debt was accumulated. Moreover, 70% of the increase in expenditures came in the form of capital outlays. Next, we build a dynamic, decision theoretic model of a school district''s budgeting problem, which we calibrate to district level expenditure and staffing data. The model can qualitatively match the employment and capital expenditure responses from our regressions. We also use the model to conduct policy experiments.

Semi-Parametric Interpolations of Residential Location Values: Using Housing Price Data to Generate Balanced Panels

We estimate location values for single family houses by local polynomial regressions (LPR), a semi-parametric procedure, using a standard housing price and characteristics dataset. As a logical extension of the LPR method, we interpolate land values for every property in every year and validate the accuracy of the interpolated estimates with an out-of-sample forecasting approach using Denver sales during 2003 through 2010. We also compare the LPR and OLS models out-of-sample and determine that the LPR model is more efficient at predicting location values. In a balanced panel application, we use GMM estimation to examine how the location value estimates are affected by airport infrastructure investments.

Education Policies and Structural Transformation

This article studies the impact of education and fertility in structural transformation and growth. In the model there are three sectors, agriculture, which uses only low-skill labor, manufacturing, that uses high-skill labor only and services, that uses both. Parents choose optimally the number of children and their skill. Educational policy has two dimensions, it may or may not allow child labor and it subsidizes education expenditures. The model is calibrated to South Korea and Brazil, and is able to reproduce some key stylized facts observed between 1960 and 2005 in these economies, such as the low (high) productivity of services in Brazil (South Korea) which is shown to be a function of human capital and very important in explaining its stagnation (growth) after 1980. We also analyze how different government policies towards education and child labor implemented in these countries affected individuals’ decisions toward education and the growth trajectory of each economy.

Interjurisdictional competition and location decisions of firms

We examine the welfare properties of alternative regimes of interjurisdictional competition for heterogenous mobile firms. Firms differ not only in terms of the degree of mobility across jurisdictions but also in terms of productivity. Alternative taxation regimes represent restraints on the discretionary powers of taxation of local governments. We find that average welfare is higher under discretionary and more efficient taxation regimes (in the sense of minimizing deadweight losses from distortionary taxation) when firms are highly mobile. In this situation, further limiting competition by imposing a system of non-discretionary instruments can reduce average welfare by reducing the efficiency of the local governments at raising and allocating public funds. When firms face high moving costs, on the other hand, switching to a non-discretionary and less efficient taxation regime may increase welfare by preventing local governments from engaging in excessive redistribution of resources.

Wage dynamics and labor market transitions: a reassessment through total income and “usual” wages.

We present a simple on-the-job search model in which workers can receive shocks to their employer-specific productivity match. Because the firm-specific match can vary, wages may increase or decrease over time at each employer. Therefore, for some workers, job-to-job transitions are a way to escape job situations that worsened over time. The contribution of our paper relies on our novel approach to identifying the presence of the shock to the match specific productivity. The presence of two independent measures of workers’ compensation in our dataset of is crucial for our identification strategy. In the first measure, workers are asked about the usual wage they earn with a certain employer. In the second measure, workers are asked about their total amount of labor earnings during the previous year. While the first measure records the wages at a given point in time, the second measure records the sum of all wages within one year. We calibrate our model using both measures of workers’ compensation and data on employment transitions. The results show that 59% of the observed wage cuts following job-to-job transitions are due to deterioration of the firm-specific component of wages before workers switch employers.

Unauthorized Immigration and Fiscal Competition

Reflecting upon recent enforcement policy activism of US states and countries within the EU towards unauthorized workers, we examine the overlap of centralized (federal) and decentralized (state or regional) enforcement of immigration policies in a spatial context. Among other results, we find that if interstate mobility is costless, internal enforcement is overprovided, and border enforcement and local goods are underprovided when regions take more responsibility in deciding policies. This leads to higher levels of unauthorized immigration under decentralization. Interregional migration costs moderate such over/underprovision. Moreover, income distributive motives in the host country may shape the design of immigration policies in specific ways. The basic model is extended in several ways. First, we study how the policies change when regions can exclude unauthorized immigrants from the consuming of regionally provided goods or services. Second, we assume that the potential number of unauthorized immigrants is endogenous. And finally, we examine the effect of considering an alternative spatial configuration that includes border and “interior" regions.

The 2009 Recovery Act: Stimulus at the Extensive and Intensive Labor Margins

This paper studies the effect of government stimulus spending on a novel aspect of the labor market: the differential impact of spending on the total wage bill versus employment. We analyze the 2009 Recovery Act via instrumental variables using a new instrument, the spending done by federal agencies that were not instructed to target funds towards harder hit regions. We find a moderate positive effect on jobs created/saved (i.e., the extensive margin") and also a significant increase in wage payments to workers whose job status was safe without Recovery Act funds (i.e., the intensive margin"). Our point estimates imply that roughly one-half of the wage payments resulting from the Act were paid at the intensive margin. To provide a theoretical underpinning for the estimates, we build a micro-founded dynamic model in which a firm meets new government demand with a combination of new hiring and increasing existing workers'' average hours. Faced with hiring costs and an overtime premium, the firm responds by increasing hours along both margins. Our model analysis also provides insight into how government spending policy should be structured to lower the cost of generating new jobs. Finally, we catalogue survey evidence from Recovery Act fund recipients that reinforces the importance of the intensive labor margin.


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