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Working Paper Archives

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

Firm Exit and Liquidity: Evidence from the Great Recession

This paper studies the role of credit constraints in accounting for the dynamics of firm exit during the Great Recession. We present novel firm-level evidence on the role of credit constraints on exit behavior during the Great Recession. Firms in financial distress, with tighter access to credit, are more likely to default than firms with more access to credit. This difference widened substantially in the Great Recession while, in contrast, default rates did not vary much by size, age, or productivity. We identify conditions under which standard models of firms subject to financial frictions can be consistent with these facts.

Pandemic labor force participation and net worth fluctuations

The U.S. labor force participation rate (LFPR) experienced a record drop during the early pandemic. While it has since recovered to 62.2% as of December 2022, it was still 1.41 pp below its pre-pandemic peak. This gap is explained mostly by a permanent decline in the LFPR for workers older than 55. This paper argues that wealth effects driven by the historically high returns in major asset classes such as stocks and housing may have influenced these trends. Combining an estimated model of wealth effects on labor supply with micro data on balance sheet composition, we show that changes in net worth caused by realized returns explain half of the drop in LFPR in the 2020-21 period and over 80% of "excess retirements'' during the same period.

Optimal Dynamic Tax-Transfer Policies in Heterogeneous-Agents Economies

In the design of an optimal tax-transfer system, there are two complementary conventional wisdoms: the labor-efficiency argument and the debt-efficiency argument. The former emphasizes the trade-off between redistribution and distortions in the labor market, while the latter emphasizes the trade-off between gains from monopoly rents and distortions in the asset market. We use an analytically tractable infinite-horizon model with both ex-ante and ex-post heterogeneity to show that neither argument is complete in the design of the tax-transfer system. Instead, in Aiyagari-type models the optimal system should be determined at the point where the intertemporal wedge between the market interest rate and the time discount rate is completely eliminated, provided that the government fiscal space permits an interior Ramsey steady state. Otherwise the optimal labor tax rate approaches 100% regardless of the Pareto weight distribution in the social welfare function.

Theodore Roosevelt, the Election of 1912, and the Founding of the Federal Reserve

This paper examines how the election of 1912 changed the makeup of Congress and led to the Federal Reserve Act. The decision of Theodore Roosevelt and other Progressives to run as third-party candidates split the Republican Party and enabled Democrats to capture the White House and Congress. We show that the election produced a less polarized Congress and that newly-elected members were more likely to support the act. Absent their interparty split, Republicans would likely have held the White House and Congress, and any legislation to establish a central bank would have been unlikely or certainly quite different.

On the Economic Mechanics of Warfare

The literature on war deals with finances, causes, or consequences. But, how do war-related expenditures affect economically-relevant outcomes at a war’s conclusion (e.g., prevailing side, duration, and casualties)? I present a model of attrition and characterize the effects of GDP at a military conclusion (one side cannot fight anymore) and a political conclusion (one side quits). The estimated model fits the data for the battle of Iwo Jima well. Analyzing data for the current Russo-Ukrainian war through the lenses of the model suggests that additional support to Ukraine could yield a shorter, cheaper war with less destruction on both sides.

From Population Growth to TFP Growth

A slowdown in population growth causes a decline in business dynamism by increasing the share of old businesses. But how does it affect productivity growth? We answer this question by extending a standard firm dynamics model to include endogenous productivity growth. Theoretically, the growth rate of the size of surviving old businesses is a “sufficient statistic" for determining the direction and magnitude of the impact of population growth on TFP growth. Quantitatively, this effect is significant across balanced growth paths for the United States and Japan. TFP growth in the United States falls by 0.10-0.23 percentage points because of the slowing in population growth between 1900 and 2060. The same driving force produces a noticeably bigger response in Japan. Despite the significant long-run effect, we discover that changes in TFP growth are slow in reaction to population growth changes due to two short-run counterbalancing factors.

Heterogeneous Agents Dynamic Spatial General Equilibrium

I develop a dynamic model of migration and labor market choice with incomplete markets and uninsurable income risk to quantify the effects of international trade on workers’ employment reallocation, earnings, and wealth. Macroeconomic conditions in different labor markets and idiosyncratic shocks shape agents’ labor market choices, consumption, earnings, and asset accumulation over time. Despite the rich heterogeneity, the model is highly tractable as the optimal consumption, labor supply, capital accumulation, and migration and reallocation decisions of individual workers across different markets have closed-form expressions and can be aggregated. I study the asymmetric impact of international trade on the evolution of employment, earnings, and wealth, and decompose the frictions workers face to reallocate across U.S. sectors and regions into those with a transitory effect and those with long-lasting consequences.

Why Are the Wealthiest So Wealthy? A Longitudinal Empirical Investigation

We use 1993–2015 Norwegian administrative panel data on wealth and income to study lifecycle wealth dynamics. At age 50, the excess wealth of the top 0.1%, relative to mid-wealth households, is accounted for by higher saving rates (34%), initial wealth (32%), and higher returns (27%), while higher labor income (5%) and inheritances (1%) account for the residual. One-fourth of the wealthiest—the “New Money”—start with negative wealth but experience rapid wealth growth early in life. Relative to the “Old Money”, the New Money are characterized by even higher saving rates and returns, and also by higher labor income.

Subjective Earnings Risk

We introduce a survey instrument to measure earnings risk allowing for the possibility of quitting or being fired from the current job. We find these transitions to be the key drivers of subjective risk. A link with administrative data provides multiple credibility checks for correspondingly aggregated data. Yet it reveals subjective earning risk to be many times smaller than traditional estimates imply even when conditioning richly on demographics and job history. A life-cycle search model calibrated to match data on job transitions and earnings can replicate the distribution of subjective beliefs reported in the survey. Job-match quality, which directly impacts subjective risk but is impossible to identify in administrative data, contributes significantly to earnings risk. This highlights the importance of administratively- linked subjective risk measures.

Navigating the Waves of Global Shipping: Drivers and Aggregate Implications

This paper studies the drivers of global shipping dynamics and their aggregate implications. We document novel evidence on the dynamics of global shipping supply, demand, and costs. Motivated by this evidence, we set up a dynamic model of international trade with a global shipping market where shipping firms and importers endogenously determine shipping supply and costs. We find the model successfully accounts for the dynamics of global shipping observed in the aftermath of COVID-19 as well as at business cycle frequencies. We find that accounting for global shipping is critical for the dynamics of aggregate economic activity.

Navigating the Waves of Global Shipping: Drivers and Aggregate Implications

This paper studies the drivers of global shipping dynamics and their aggregate implications. We document novel evidence on the dynamics of global shipping supply, demand, and costs. Motivated by this evidence, we set up a dynamic model of international trade with a global shipping market where shipping firms and importers endogenously determine shipping supply and costs. We find the model successfully accounts for the dynamics of global shipping observed in the aftermath of COVID-19 as well as at business cycle frequencies. We find that accounting for global shipping is critical for the dynamics of aggregate economic activity.

Welfare-enhancing inflation and liquidity premia

We investigate what principles should govern the evolution and maturity structure of the national debt when nominal government securities constitute an important form of exchange media. Even in the absence of government funding risk, we find a rationale for issuing nominal debt in different maturities, purposely mispricing long-term debt, and growing the nominal debt to support a strictly positive inflation target. The policy of discounting long-term debt and supporting a strictly positive inflation target provides superior risk-sharing arrangements for clienteles characterized by different degrees of patience. Pareto improvements are possible only if these policies are offered jointly.

On Terms of Trade, Offshoring Ties, and the Enforcement of Trade Agreements

This paper unpacks the role of offshoring in the enforcement of trade agreements. In a two-country model of task offshoring, we show that by depressing demand and thus demand for embodied labor, own-tariff effects on factor content weighted terms of trade are: (i) negative in upstream countries, backfiring on upstream workers, and (ii) positive in downstream countries which render imported labor tasks even cheaper. This progression in own-tariff effects on terms of trade along the supply chain presents a novel challenge to the effectiveness of dispute settlement rules designed to nullify unwarranted terms of trade gains. The pros and cons of deep trade integration as a remedy, involving well-enforced labor standards both upstream and downstream as an integral part of trade agreements, are highlighted.

Financial Intermediation and Aggregate Demand: A Sufficient Statistics Approach

We provide a unified framework to study how the financial sector affects the transmission of macroeconomic policies, such as monetary and fiscal policies, and asset purchase programs. Our framework nests models of financial intermediation with various microfoundations and allows for rich household heterogeneity. The financial sector supplies liquidity by issuing liquid assets to finance illiquid capital. The elasticities of liquidity supply with respect to returns are sufficient statistics that summarize how the financial sector determines responses to policy through asset markets. This asset market channel has a strong effect on output when liquidity supply is inelastic. We apply our approach to study the relative effectiveness of policies targeting the financial sector versus households. In commonly used setups, aggregate output responses differ by orders of magnitude due to implicit assumptions about the elasticities. Our estimates of the liquidity supply elasticities for the U.S. economy imply a modest effect through the asset markets and a stronger effect of targeting households.

The Evolution of Regional Beveridge Curves

The slow recovery of the labor market in the aftermath of the Great Recession highlighted mismatch, the misallocation of workers across space or across industries. We consider the historical evolution of regional mismatch. We construct MSA-level unemployment rates and vacancy data using techniques similar to Barnichon (2010) and a new dataset of online help-wanted ads by MSA. We estimate regional Beveridge curves, identifying the slopes by restricting them to be equal across locations with similar labor market characteristics. We find that the 51 U.S. cities in our sample have four groupings which are influenced by industry classification, union membership, and geographic proximity. Additionally, allowing for a structural break suggests match efficiency increased across regions after adoption of the internet.

The Impact of Racial Segregation on College Attainment in Spatial Equilibrium

This paper seeks to understand the forces that maintain racial segregation and the implications for the Black-White gap in college attainment. We incorporate race into an overlapping-generations spatial-equilibrium model with neighborhood spillovers. The model incorporates race in three ways: (i) a Black-White wage gap, (ii) an amenity externality---households care about the racial composition of their neighbors---and (iii) an additional barrier to moving for Black households. These forces quantitatively account for all of the racial segregation and 80% of the Black-White gap in college attainment in the data for the St. Louis metro area. Counterfactual exercises show that all three forces are quantitatively important. The presence of spillovers and externalities generates multiple equilibria. Although St. Louis is in the segregated equilibrium, there also exists an integrated equilibrium with a lower college gap, and we analyze a transition path between the two.

Technology and the Task Content of Jobs across the Development Spectrum

The tasks workers perform on the job are informative about the direction and the impact of technological change. We harmonize occupational task content measures between two worker-level surveys, which separately cover developing and developed countries. Developing countries use routine-cognitive tasks and routine-manual tasks more intensively than developed countries, but less intensively use non-routine analytical tasks and non-routine interpersonal tasks. This is partly because developing countries have more workers in occupations with high routine contents and fewer workers in occupations with high non-routine contents. More important, a given occupation has more routine contents and less non-routine contents in developing countries than in developed countries. Since 2006, occupations with high non-routine contents gained employment relative to those with high routine contents in most countries, regardless of their income level or initial task intensity, indicating the global reaches of the technological change that reduces the demand for occupations with high routine contents.

TFP, Capital Deepening, and Gains from trade

We study welfare gains from trade in a dynamic, multicountry model with capital accumulation. We compute the exact transition paths for 93 countries following a permanent, uniform, unanticipated trade liberalization. We find that while the dynamic gains are different across countries, consumption transition paths look similar except for scale. In addition, dynamic gains accrue gradually and are about 60 percent of steady-state gains for every country. Finally, the contribution of capital accumulation to dynamic gains is four times that of TFP.

A Quantitative Theory of Relationship Lending

Borrower-lender relationships tend to be long-lasting, and borrowers switch lenders infrequently. We analyze the aggregate consequences of these facts in a model of heterogeneous banks subject to financial frictions that incorporates lending relationships as a form of customer capital for banks. The model's loan demand system is directly estimated on administrative loan-level data to recover key parameters governing the strength and persistence of relationships. The degree of market power deriving from lending relationships is consistent with a long run reduction in total credit of 4.1% relative to a competitive benchmark. We find that financial and relationship capital are complements, and therefore correlated across banks in equilibrium. Relationship lending amplifies the negative real effects of credit supply shocks, but allows banks to rebuild their buffers faster: in response to an unanticipated 25% drop in bank net worth, loan volume drops 36% more in our baseline model than in a competitive analog with no relationships. In contrast, relationship lending mutes the contractionary real effects of negative credit demand shocks.

Financial market reactions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

This article analyzes financial market reactions to the Russia-Ukraine war with a focus on the opening weeks. Markets did not completely anticipate the war and asset price reactions strengthened from the first week—when there were hopes for a quick resolution—to the second week, when prices generally peaked and began to partially revert to pre-war values. Exposure to commodity trade and trade with Russia-Ukraine determined market perceptions of the riskiness of equity and foreign exchange assets. Credit default swap prices on sovereign debt and breakeven inflation rates indicate that markets saw the war as a measurable fiscal risk even for non-belligerents.

An Elementary Model of VC Financing and Growth

This article uses an endogenous growth model to study how the improvements in financing for innovative start-ups brought by venture capital (VC) affect firm innovation and growth. Partial equilibrium results show how lending contracts change as financing efficiency improves, while general equilibrium results demonstrate that better screening and development of projects by VC investors leads to higher aggregate productivity growth.

The Economic Impact of COVID-19 around the World

For over two years, the world has been battling the health and economic consequences of the COVID‐19 pandemic. This paper provides an account of the worldwide economic impact of the COVID‐19 shock, measured by GDP growth, employment, government spending, monetary policy, and trade. We find that the COVID‐19 shock severely impacted output growth and employment in 2020, particularly in middle‐income countries. The government response, mainly consisting of increased expenditure, implied a rise in debt levels. Advanced countries, having easier access to credit markets, experienced the highest increase in indebtedness. All regions also relied on monetary policy to support the fiscal expansion. The specific circumstances surrounding the COVID‐19 shock implied that the expansionary fiscal and monetary policies did not put upward pressure on prices until 2021. We also find that the adverse effects of the COVID‐19 shock on output and prices have been significant and persistent, especially in emerging and developing countries.

EBITDA Add-backs in Debt Contracting: A Step Too Far?

Financial covenants in syndicated loan agreements often rely on definitions of EBITDA that deviate from the GAAP definition. We document the increased usage of non-GAAP addbacks to EBITDA in recent times. Using the 2013 Interagency Guidance on Leveraged Lending, which we argue led to an exogenous increase in non-GAAP EBITDA addbacks, we show that these addbacks increase the likelihood of loan delinquency and default, and also increase the likelihood of the borrower experiencing a ratings downgrade. Greater use of non-GAAP EBITDA addbacks also makes it more likely that lead arrangers lower their loan share exposures through secondary market sales. Our results highlight that covenants based on customized measures of EBITDA hurt loan performance by worsening lead arrangers’ incentives to monitor borrowers and by hampering their ability to take timely corrective actions.

COVID-19: fiscal implications and financial stability in developing countries

The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any other crisis that we have experienced in that it hit all economies in the world at the same time, compromising the risk sharing ability of nations. At the onset of the pandemic, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) jointly pledged 1.16 trillion dollars to help emerging economies deal with COVID-19. Would this amount have been enough to preserve financial stability in a worst case scenario? What were the fiscal implications of the pandemic? In this paper we aim to answer these questions by documenting the size of the fiscal measures implemented by different countries, the aid they received from the IMF and the WB to finance those fiscal measures, the resulting changes in gross debt, debt composition and maturity, and fiscal deficits. We find that given the amount of debt that was maturing in Asia and Latin America in 2020 and 2021, if there had been a rollover crisis due to lack of demand for their newly issued debt, then what was pledge by the WB and IMF at the onset of the pandemic would not have been enough to preserve financial stability. However, there was no rollover crisis, and although fiscal deficits got considerable worse in 2020, they improved in 2021, albeit, leaving gross debt at higher levels than those observed pre-pandemic.

Labor Force Exiters around Recessions: Who Are They?

This paper identifies workers who experience a job separation during a recession and tracks their labor force status in the following year using the Current Population Survey. Workers are classified as exiters if they leave the labor force shortly after their job loss and non-exiters if they do not. The pool of exiters is disproportionately female, less-educated, and older. During the pandemic recession, there were even more older workers in the exiters pool, although they were less likely to report being retired compared to in the Great Recession. In addition, statuses were more persistent during the Great Recession: for both exiters and non-exiters the majority were in the same labor force status a year later. I then use the patterns of these samples of job-separators to estimate the propensity of being re-employed in a year and apply the estimates to the general out-of-work pools during the two recessions. I find that changes in the likelihood of being re-employed as well as the composition of individuals out of work are important for understanding the differences between the labor market in the two recessions.

Causes and Consequences of Student-College Mismatch

What are the tradeoffs of meritocratic college admissions? On one hand, stronger sorting between students and colleges may produce more human capital on aggregate if higher ability students benefit more from attending higher quality colleges. On the other hand, stronger sorting generates a higher degree of earnings inequality and reduces upward mobility. In this paper, we examine student-college sorting and study aggregate implications of redistributive college admissions policies such as affirmative action. To this end, we develop a model with heterogeneous students and college types that differ on human capital production technology and financial costs/subsidies. We quantify our model using NLSY97 student-level and college transcript data, as well as quasi-experimental evidence on returns to college quality and relevance of information provision. Our quantitative model implies small efficiency losses from redistributive college admissions policies such as affirmative action based on socioeconomic status.

The Evolution of Lifetime Hours and the Gender Wage Gap

The gender wage gap decreased (opened) from 1940 to 1975 and then increased (closed) until 2010. We use the model introduced in Ben-Porath (1967) to assess the role of gender differences in life cycle profiles of market time in explaining this dynamics. Men's profiles changed little across cohorts, but women's profiles converged to that of men implying, eventually, stronger incentives for women to accumulate human capital. We calibrate the model and find that (1) The 1940-75 decrease of the gap was because men valued human capital more than women due to their working more. The 1975-10 increase was because men's valuation of human capital remain mostly unchanged while women's increased. (2) If men had the hours profiles of women, the wage gap would have closed continuously since 1940 (ceteris paribus), but its level in 2010 would be close to its observed level.

Dissecting Idiosyncratic Earnings Risk

This paper examines whether nonlinear and non-Gaussian features of earnings dynamics are caused by hours or hourly wages. Our findings from the Norwegian administrative and survey data are as follows: (i) Nonlinear mean reversion in earnings is driven by the dynamics of hours worked rather than wages since wage dynamics are close to linear, while hours dynamics are nonlinear—negative changes to hours are transitory, while positive changes are persistent. (ii) Large earnings changes are driven equally by hours and wages, whereas small changes are associated mainly with wage shocks. (iii) Both wages and hours contribute to negative skewness and high kurtosis for earnings changes, although hour-wage interactions are quantitatively more important. (iv) When considering household earnings and disposable household income, the deviations from normality are mitigated relative to individual labor earnings: changes in disposable household income are approximately symmetric and less leptokurtic.

Voluntary participation in a terror group and counterterrorism policy

A three-stage game investigates how counterterrorism measures are affected by volunteers’ choice in joining a terrorist group. In stage 1, the government chooses both proactive and defensive countermeasures, while looking ahead to the anticipated size and actions of terrorist groups. After radicalized individuals choose whether to join a terrorist group in stage 2, group members then allocate their time between work and terrorist operations. Based on wages and government counterterrorism, the game characterizes the extensive margin determining group size and the intensive margin indicating the group’s level of attacks. Comparative statics show how changes in wages or radicalization impact the optimal mix between defensive and proactive countermeasures. Higher (lower) wages favor a larger (smaller) mix of proactive measures over defensive actions. In the absence of backlash, enhanced radicalization of terrorist members calls for a greater reliance on defensive actions. The influence of backlash on counterterrorism is also examined.

Liquidity and Investment in General Equilibrium

This paper studies how trading frictions in financial markets impact firms’ investment and dividend policies, and explores its aggregate consequences. When equity shares trade in frictional asset markets, the firm’s problem is time-inconsistent, and it is as if it faces quasi-hyperbolic discounting. The transmission of trading frictions to the real economy crucially depends on the firms’ ability to commit. In a calibrated economy without commitment, larger trading frictions imply lower capital. In contrast, if firms can commit, trading frictions affect asset prices but have little effect on aggregate capital. Our findings rationalize several empirical regularities on liquidity and investment.

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