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

Regional Economics

Debt and Stabilization Policy: Evidence from a Euro Area FAVAR

The Euro-area poses a unique problem in evaluating policy: a currency union with a shared monetary policy and country-specific fiscal policy. Analysis can be further complicated if high levels of public debt affect the performance of stabilization policy. We construct a framework capable of handling these issues with an application to Euro-Area data. In order to incorporate multiple macroeconomic series from each country but, simultaneously, treat country-specific fiscal policy, we develop a hierarchical factor-augmented VAR with zero restrictions on the loadings that yield country-level factors. Monetary policy, then, responds to area-wide conditions but fiscal policy responds only to its country level conditions. We find that there is broad quantitative variation in different countries'''' responses to area-wide monetary policy and both qualitative and quantitative variation in responses to country-specific fiscal policy. Moreover, we find that debt conditions do not diminish the effectiveness of policy in a significant manner, suggesting that any negative effects must come through other channels.

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.

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.

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.

A State-Level Analysis of Okun's Law

Okun''s law is an empirical relationship that measures the correlation between the deviation of the unemployment rate from its natural rate and the deviation of output growth from its potential. This relationship is often referred to by policy makers and used by forecasters. In this paper, we estimate Okun''s coefficients separately for each U.S. state using an unobserved components framework and find variation of the coefficients across states. We exploit this heterogeneity of Okun''s coefficients to directly examine the potential factors that shape Okun''s law, and find that indicators of more flexible labor markets (higher levels of education achievement in the population, lower rate of unionization, and a higher share of non-manufacturing employment) are important determinants of the differences in Okun''s coefficient across states.

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.

Trade and Labor Market Dynamics: General Equilibrium Analysis of the China Trade Shock

We develop a dynamic trade model with spatially distinct labor markets facing varying exposure to international trade. The model captures the role of labor mobility frictions, goods mobility frictions, geographic factors, and input-output linkages in determining equilibrium allocations. We show how to solve the equilibrium of the model and take the model to the data without assuming that the economy is at a steady state and without estimating productivities, migration frictions, or trade costs, which can be difficult to identify. We calibrate the model to 22 sectors, 38 countries, and 50 U.S. states. We study how the rise in China’s trade for the period 2000 to 2007 impacted U.S. households across more than a thousand U.S. labor markets distinguished by sector and state. We find that the China trade shock resulted in a loss of 0.8 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, about 25% of the observed decline in manufacturing employment from 2000 to 2007. The U.S. gains in the aggregate but, due to trade and migration frictions, the welfare and employment effects vary across U.S. labor markets. Estimated transition costs to the new long-run equilibrium are also heterogeneous and reflect the importance of accounting for labor dynamics.

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.

Metro Business Cycles

We construct monthly economic activity indices for the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) beginning in 1990. Each index is derived from a dynamic factor model based on twelve underlying variables capturing various aspects of metro area economic activity. To accommodate mixed-frequency data and differences in data-publication lags, we estimate the dynamic factor model using a maximum-likelihood approach that allows for arbitrary patterns of missing data. Our indices highlight important similarities and differences in business cycles across MSAs. While a number of MSAs experience sizable recessions during the national recessions of the early 1990s and early 2000s, other MSAs escape recessions altogether during one or both of these periods. Nearly all MSAs suffer relatively deep recessions near the recent Great Recession, but we still find significant differences in the depth of recent metro recessions. We relate the severity of metro recessions to a variety of MSA characteristics and find that MSAs with less-educated populations and less elastic housing supplies experience significantly more severe recessions. After controlling for national economic activity, we also find significant evidence of dynamic spillover effects in economic activity across MSAs.

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.

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.

Rural-Urban Migration, Structural Transformation, and Housing Markets in China

This paper explores the contribution of the structural transformation and urbanization process in the housing market in China. City migration ‡flows combined with an inelastic land supply, due to entry restrictions, has raised house prices. This issue is examined using a multi-sector dynamic general-equilibrium model with migration and housing market. Our quantitative findings suggest that this process accounts for about 80 percent of urban housing prices. This mechanism remains valid in an extension calibrated to the two largest cities where housing booms have been particularly noticeable. Overall, supply factors and productivity account for most of the housing price growth.

Determinants of Trade Margins: Insights Using State Export Data

We adapt the heterogeneous firm trade models of Helpman, Melitz, and Rubinstein (2008) and Lawless (2010) to analyze extensive and intensive trade margins using state-level exports to foreign nations. Our theoretical analysis provides definitive predictions for the effects of changes in fixed costs, variable costs, and foreign income on the extensive margin, while for the intensive margin the predictions regarding changes in fixed costs are definitive, but the effects of changes in variable costs and foreign income are not. The number of exporting firms of a state is used to measure the extensive margin, while the intensive margin is approximated by the average firm exports of a state. Various count-data models, such as the standard negative binomial and its hurdle extension, are used to address non-trading pairs and overdispersion in the extensive trade estimations, while a Heckman correction is examined to handle sample selection issues in the intensive margin estimations. As the theory predicts, we find more consistent and statistically significant effects of changes in cost-related variables on the extensive than on the intensive margin of trade. Unlike Lawless (2010), but consistent with a truncated Pareto distribution, empirical findings suggest that variable costs reduce average exports. A noteworthy finding is that U.S. foreign direct investment has a positive effect on both margins.

Determinants of Trade Margins: Insights Using State Export Data

We adapt the heterogeneous firm trade models of Helpman, Melitz, and Rubinstein (2008) and Lawless (2010) to analyze extensive and intensive trade margins using state-level exports to foreign nations. Our theoretical analysis provides definitive predictions for the effects of changes in fixed costs, variable costs, and foreign income on the extensive margin, while for the intensive margin the predictions regarding changes in fixed costs are definitive, but the effects of changes in variable costs and foreign income are not. The number of exporting firms of a state is used to measure the extensive margin, while the intensive margin is approximated by the average firm exports of a state. Various count-data models, such as the standard negative binomial and its hurdle extension, are used to address non-trading pairs and overdispersion in the extensive trade estimations, while a Heckman correction is examined to handle sample selection issues in the intensive margin estimations. As the theory predicts, we find more consistent and statistically significant effects of changes in cost-related variables on the extensive than on the intensive margin of trade. Unlike Lawless (2010), but consistent with a truncated Pareto distribution, empirical findings suggest that variable costs reduce average exports. A noteworthy finding is that U.S. foreign direct investment has a positive effect on both margins.

Countercyclical Policy and the Speed of Recovery After Recessions

We consider the effect of some policies intended to shorten recessions and accelerate recoveries. Our innovation is to analyze the duration of the recoveries of various U.S. states, which gives us a cross-section of both state- and national-level policies. Because we study multiple recessions for the same state and multiple states for the same recession, we can control for differences in the economic conditions preceding recessions and the causes of the recessions when evaluating various policies. We find that expansionary monetary policy at the national level helps to stimulate the exit of individual states from recession. We …find that exogenous measures of decreases in taxes or targeted increases in federal spending reduce recovery times for state-recessions. We also …find ambient economic conditions can extend expected recovery times: other states in the same region suffering from recession around the same time, the length of the preceding recession, and increases in oil prices.

Clustered Housing Cycles

Using a panel of U.S. city-level building permits data, we estimate a Markov-switching model of housing cycles that allows cities to systematically deviate from the national housing cycle. These deviations occur for clusters of cities that experience simultaneous housing contractions. We find that cities do not form housing regions in the traditional geographic sense. Instead, similarities in factors affecting the demand for housing (such as population growth or availability of credit) appear to be more important determinants of cyclical co-movements than similarities in factors affecting the supply for land (such as the availability of developable land or the elasticity of land supply).

Regionalization vs. Globalization

Both global and regional economic linkages have strengthened substantially over the past quarter century. We employ a dynamic factor model to analyze the implications of these linkages for the evolution of global and regional business cycles. Our model allows us to assess the roles played by the global, regional, and country-specific factors in explaining business cycles in a large sample of countries and regions over the period 1960–2010. We find that, since the mid-1980s, the importance of regional factors has increased markedly in explaining business cycles especially in regions that experienced a sharp growth in intra-regional trade and financial flows. By contrast, the relative importance of the global factor has declined over the same period. In short, the recent era of globalization has witnessed the emergence of regional business cycles.

Interjurisdictional Competition with Adverse Selection

In this paper, we study the welfare consequences of imposing alternative regimes of competition between two local governments that compete for mobile firms which have private information on their degree of mobility. Competition among jurisdictions raises the firms'' rents to higher levels than if jurisdictions were to cooperate. Therefore, from the perspective of a utilitarian federation, constitutional constraints on the competition process may be desirable. We find that imposing a system of coarser policy instruments improves welfare relative to competition with discretionary instruments, because it reduces the socially costly rents that are granted to firms in equilibrium. We also find that the gains from resorting to constitutional constraints are maximal when communities are identical, but decline if the extent of asymmetry between locations (in terms of local market size or technological complementarities) increases.

Forecasting National Recessions Using State Level Data

A large literature studies the information contained in national-level economic indicators, such as financial and aggregate economic activity variables, for forecasting and nowcasting U.S. business cycle phases (expansions and recessions.) In this paper, we investigate whether there is additional information useful for identifying business cycle phases contained in subnational measures of economic activity. Using a probit model to forecast the NBER expansion and recession classification, we assess the incremental information content of state-level employment growth over a commonly used set of national-level predictors. As state-level data adds a large number of predictors to the model, we employ a Bayesian model averaging procedure to construct forecasts. Based on a variety of forecast evaluation metrics, we find that including state-level employment growth substantially improves nowcasts and very short-horizon forecasts of the business cycle phase. The gains in forecast accuracy are concentrated during months of national recession.

Did Affordable Housing Legislation Contribute to the Subprime Securities Boom?

We use a regression discontinuity approach and present new institutional evidence to investigate whether affordable housing policies influenced the market for securitized subprime mortgages. We use merged loan-level data on non-prime mortgages with individual- and neighborhood-level data for California and Florida. We find no evidence that lenders increased subprime originations or altered loan pricing around the discrete eligibility cutoffs for the Government-Sponsored Enterprises'''' (GSEs) affordable housing goals or the Community Reinvestment Act. Although we find evidence that the GSEs bought significant quantities of subprime securities, our results indicate that these purchases were not directly related to affordable housing mandates.

Extensive and Intensive Trade Margins: A State-by-State View

This paper examines a topic of increasing interest, the potential determinants of extensive (i.e., number of firms) and intensive (i.e., average exports per firm) trade margins, using state-level trade to 190 countries. In addition to distance and country size, other factors affecting trade costs and export demand are explored. In state-by-state regressions, these other factors exhibit more consistent and statistically significant effects on the extensive than on the intensive trade margin. One noteworthy finding is that U.S. foreign direct investment has a positive effect on both margins. In regressions using all state-level data simultaneously, some factors affect both margins, but not necessarily in the same way. For example, the impact of the communications infrastructure in the importing country affects the extensive margin positively and the intensive margin negatively. Finally, reasons for differences across states, such as state size and trade missions, are identified.

The Effect of Neighborhood Spillovers on Mortgage Selection

In this paper we analyze how spillovers in mortgage adoption affect mortgage product choice across neighborhoods and across borrowers of different racial or ethnic groups. We use loan-level data on subprime mortgages for metropolitan areas in California and Florida during 2004 and 2005, the peak years of the subprime mortgage boom. We identify an important and statistically significant effect of spillovers, both within and across groups, on the consumers\' choice of hybrid mortgage products that were popular during this period. In particular, we find that the group-specific spillover effects are strengthened by the group affiliation (race and ethnicity) of the borrower. The effects are particularly important among Hispanic and white borrowers, but not among black borrowers.

Differences in Subprime Loan Pricing Across Races and Neighborhoods

We investigate whether race and ethnicity influenced subprime loan pricing during 2005, the peak of the subprime mortgage expansion. We combine loan-level data on the performance of non-prime securitized mortgages with individual- and neighborhood- level data on racial and ethnic characteristics for metropolitan areas in California and Florida. Using a model of rate determination that accounts for predicted loan performance, we evaluate the differences in subprime mortgage rates in terms of racial and ethnic groups and neighborhood characteristics. We find evidence of adverse pricing for blacks and Hispanics. The evidence of adverse pricing is strongest for purchase mortgages and mortgages originated by non-depository institutions.

Where is an Oil Shock?

Much of the literature examining the effects of oil shocks asks the question ―What is an oil shock? and has concluded that oil-price increases are asymmetric in their effects on the US economy. That is, sharp increases in oil prices affect economic activity adversely, but sharp decreases in oil prices have no effect. We reconsider the directional symmetry of oil-price shocks by addressing the question ―Where is an oil shock?, the answer to which reveals a great deal of spatial/directional asymmetry across states. Although most states have typical responses to oil-price shocks—they are affected by positive shocks only—the rest experience either negative shocks only (5 states), both positive and negative shocks (5 states), or neither shock (5 states).

Accounting for Geographic Variation in the Cost of Living: An Application to State-Lottery Demand

The cost of living varies as much across regions as it does across time, but researchers have only begun to acknowledge the importance of controlling for regional differences in the cost of living when conducting cross-sectional analyses. We demonstrate the importance of considering regional cost-of-living differences by using empirical models of demand for state lotteries. Previous research on state lotteries has shown that the nominal-income elasticity of demand for lottery tickets is less than 1, suggesting expenditure on lottery tickets is regressive. We reestimate traditional models of lottery demand using a sample of metropolitan statistical areas, but we also control for cost-of-living differences across these areas. We find that, in accordance with our conceptual framework, estimated income elasticities are larger when we control for local cost-of-living variation – that is, the regressivity of state lotteries is overstated when local cost-of-living variation is omitted from empirical models of lottery demand. Our results are robust to several measures of the cost of living, including housing price indexes.

Discordant City Employment Cycles

This paper estimates city-level employment cycles for 58 large U.S. cities and documents the substantial cross-city variation in the timing, lengths, and frequencies of their employment contractions. It also shows how the spread of city-level contractions associated with U.S. recessions has tended to follow recession-specific geographic patterns. In addition, cities within the same state or region have tended to have similar employment cycles. We find no evidence that similarities in employment cycles are related to similarities in industry mix, although cities with more-similar high school attainment, mean establishment size, and industrial diversity have tended to have more-similar employment cycles.

Ethnic Networks and Trade: Intensive vs. Extensive Margins

Ethnic networks—as proxies for information networks—have been associated with higher levels of international trade. Previous research has not differentiated between the roles of these networks on the extensive and intensive margins. The present paper does so using a model with fixed effects, finding that ethnic networks increase trade on the intensive margin but not on the extensive margin.

Crime and Arrests: Deterrence or Resource Reallocation?

We use monthly time-series data for 20 large U.S. cities to test the deterrence hypothesis (arrests reduce crimes) and the resource reallocation hypothesis (arrests follow from an increase in crime). We find (1) weak support for the deterrence hypothesis, (2) much stronger support for the resource reallocation hypothesis, and (3) differences in city-level estimates suggest much heterogeneity in the crime and arrest relationship across regions.

Personal-Bankruptcy Cycles

This paper estimates the dynamics of the personal-bankruptcy rate over the business cycle by exploiting large cross-state variation in recessions and bankruptcies. We find that bankruptcy rates are significantly higher than normal during a recession and rise as a recession persists. After a recession ends, there is a hangover whereby bankruptcy rates begin to fall but remain above normal for several more quarters. Recovery periods see a strong bounce-back effect with bankruptcy rates significantly below normal for several quarters. Despite the significant increases in bankruptcies that occur during recessions, the largest contributor to rising bankruptcies during these periods has tended to be the longstanding upward trend.

Economic Freedom and Employment Growth in U.S. States

We extend earlier models of economic growth and development by exploring the effect of economic freedom on U.S. state employment growth. We find that states with greater economic freedom – defined as the protection of private property and private markets operating with minimal government interference – experienced greater rates of employment growth. In addition, we find that less restrictive state and national government labor market policies have the greatest impact on employment growth in U.S. states. Except for labor market policies, we find that state employment growth is influenced by state and local government policies, but not the policies of all levels of government, including the national government. Our results suggest that policy-makers concerned with employment should seriously consider the degree to which their own labor market policies, as well as those of the national government, may be limiting economic growth and development in their respective states.

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