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

The Baby Boomers and the Productivity Slowdown

The entry of baby boomers into the labor market in the 1970s slowed growth for physical and human capital per worker because young workers have little of both. Thus, the baby boom could have contributed to the 1970s productivity slowdown. I build and calibrate a model a la Huggett et al. (2011) with exogenous population and TFP to evaluate this theory. The baby boom accounts for 75% of the slowdown in the period 1964-69, 25% in 1970-74 and 2% in 1975-79. The retiring of baby boomers may cause a 2.8pp decline in productivity growth between 2020 and 2040, ceteris paribus.

The Nonlinear Effects of Uncertainty Shocks

We consider the effects of uncertainty shocks in a nonlinear VAR that allows uncertainty to have amplification effects. When uncertainty is relatively low, fluctuations in uncertainty have small, linear effects. In periods of high uncertainty, the effect of a further increase in uncertainty is magnified. We find that uncertainty shocks in this environment have a more pronounced effect on real economic variables. We also conduct counterfactual experiments to determine the channels through which uncertainty acts. Uncertainty propagates through both the household consumption channel and through businesses delaying investment, providing substantial contributions to the decline in GDP observed after uncertainty shocks. Finally, we find evidence of the ability of systematic monetary policy to mitigate the adverse effects of uncertainty shocks.

Endogenous Debt Maturity: Liquidity Risk vs. Default Risk

We study the endogenous determination of corporate debt maturity in a setting with default risk. We assume that firms must access the bond market and they issue debt with a flexible structure (coupon, face value, and maturity). Initially, the firm is in a low growth/illiquid state that requires debt refinancing if it matures. Since lenders do not refinance projects with positive but small net present value, firms may be forced to default in the first phase. We call this liquidity risk. The technology is such that earnings can switch to a higher (but riskier) level. In this second phase firms have access to the equity market but they may default if this is the best option. We call this strategic default risk. In the model optimal maturity balances these two risks. We show that firms with poor prospects and firms in more unstable industries will choose shorter maturities even if it is feasible to issue longer debt. The model also offers predictions on how asset maturity, asset salability, and leverage influence maturity. Even though our model is extremely stylized we find that the predictions are roughly consistent with the evidence. Moreover, it offers some insights into the factors that determine the structure of the debt.

News, sovereign debt maturity, and default risk

Leading into a debt crisis, interest rate spreads on sovereign debt rise before the economy experiences a decline in productivity, suggesting that news may play an important role in these episodes. The empirical evidence also shows that a news shock has a significantly larger contemporaneous impact on sovereign credit spreads than a comparable shock to labor productivity. We develop a quantitative model of news and sovereign debt default with endogenous maturity choice that generates impulse responses very similar to the empirical estimates. The model allows us to interpret the empirical evidence and to identify key parameters. We find that, first, the increase in sovereign yield spreads around a debt crisis episode is due mostly to the lower expected productivity following a bad news shock, and not to the borrowing choices of the government. Second, a shorter debt maturity increases the chance that bad news shocks trigger a debt crisis. Third, an increase in the precision of news allows the government to improve its debt maturity management, especially during periods of high financial stress, and thus face lower spreads and default risk while holding the amount of debt constant.

Resource Curse or Blessing? Sovereign Risk in Resource-Rich Emerging Economies

In this paper we document the stylized facts about the relationship between international oil price swings, sovereign risk and macroeconomic performance of oil-exporting economies. We show that even though being a bigger oil producer decreases sovereign risk–because it increases a country’s ability to repay–having more oil reserves increases sovereign risk by making autarky more attractive. We develop a small open economy model of sovereign risk with incomplete international financial markets, in which optimal oil extraction and sovereign default interact. We use the model to understand the mechanisms behind the empirical facts, and show that it supports them.

Capital Gains Taxation and Investment Dynamics

This paper quantifies the long-run effects of reducing capital gains taxes on aggregate investment. We develop a dynamic general equilibrium model with heterogeneous firms, which face discrete capital gains tax rates based on their firm size. We calibrate our model by targeting important micro moments as well as the difference-in-differences estimate of the capital elasticity based on our institutional setting in Korea. We find that the firm-size reform that reduced the capital gains tax rates from 24 percent to 10 percent for the affected firms increased aggregate investment by 1.61 percent in the steady state, with the short-run effects overstating the effects by 1 percentage points. Additionally, a counterfactual analysis where we set the uniformly low tax rate of 10 percent reveals that aggregate investment rose by 6.89 percent in the long-run. We also find that general equilibrium effects through prices are substantial in our simulation. Taken together, our findings suggest that reducing capital gains tax rates would substantially increase investment in the short-term, and accounting for dynamic and general equilibrium responses is important for understanding the aggregate effects of capital gains taxes.

The Real Term Premium in a Stationary Economy with Segmented Asset Markets

This paper proposes an equilibrium model to explain the positive and sizable term premia observed in the data. We introduce a slow mean-reverting process of consumption growth and a segmented asset market mechanism with heterogeneous trading technology to otherwise a standard heterogeneous agent general equilibrium model. First, a slow mean-reverting consumption growth process implies that the expected consumption growth rate is only slightly countercyclical and the process can exhibit a near zero first-order autocorrelation as seen in the data. The very small countercyclicality of the expected consumption growth rate suggests that the long term bonds are risky and hence the term premia are positive. Second, the segmented asset market mechanism amplifies the size and the magnitude of term premia since the aggregate risk is concentrated into a small fraction of marginal traders who demand high risk premia. For sensitivity analysis, the role of each assumption is further investigated by taking each factor out one by one.

The Macroeconomic Consequences of Early Childhood Development Policies

To study long-run large-scale early childhood policies, this paper incorporates early childhood investments into a standard general-equilibrium (GE) heterogeneous-agent overlapping-generations model. After estimating it using US data, we show that an RCT evaluation of a short-run small-scale early childhood program in the model predicts effects on children's education and income that are similar to the empirical evidence. A long-run large-scale program, however, yields twice as large welfare gains, even after considering GE and taxation effects. Key to this difference is that investing in a child not only improves her skills but also creates a better parent for the next generation.

Superstar Economists: Coauthorship networks and research output

We study the impact of research collaborations in coauthorship networks on research output and how optimal funding can maximize it. Through the links in the collaboration network, researchers create spillovers not only to their direct coauthors but also to researchers indirectly linked to them. We characterize the equilibrium when agents collaborate in multiple and possibly overlapping projects. We bring our model to the data by analyzing the coauthorship network of economists registered in the RePEc Author Service. We rank the authors and research institutions according to their contribution to the aggregate research output and thus provide a novel ranking measure that explicitly takes into account the spillover effect generated in the coauthorship network. Moreover, we analyze funding instruments for individual researchers as well as research institutions and compare them with the economics funding program of the National Science Foundation. Our results indicate that, because current funding schemes do not take into account the availability of coauthorship network data, they are ill-designed to take advantage of the spillover effects generated in scientific knowledge production networks.

Reconciling Orthodox and Heterodox Views on Money and Banking

A wide range of heterodox theories claim that banks are special because they create money in the act of lending. Put another way, banks can create the funding they need ex nihilo, whereas all other agencies must first acquire the funding they need from other parties. Mainstream economic theory largely agrees with this assessment, but questions its theoretical and empirical relevance, preferring to view banks as one of many potentially important actors in the financial market. In this paper, I develop a formal economic model in an attempt to make these ideas precise. The model lends some support to both views on banking.

Assessing the Impact of Central Bank Digital Currency on Private Banks

I investigate the theoretical impact of central bank digital currency (CBDC) on a monopolistic banking sector. The framework combines the Diamond (1965) model of government debt with the Klein (1971) and Monti (1972) model of banking. There are two main results. First, the introduction of interest-bearing CBDC increases financial inclusion, diminishing the demand for physical cash. Second, while interest-bearing CBDC reduces monopoly profit, it need not disintermediate banks in any way. CBDC may, in fact, lead to an expansion of bank deposits if CBDCcompetition compels banks to raise their deposit rates.

Assessing the Impact of Central Bank Digital Currency on Private Banks

I investigate the theoretical impact of central bank digital currency (CBDC) on a monopolistic banking sector. The framework combines the Diamond (1965) model of government debt with the Klein (1971) and Monti (1972) model of banking. There are two main results. First, the introduction of interest-bearing CBDC increases financial inclusion, diminishing the demand for physical cash. Second, while interest-bearing CBDC reduces monopoly profit, it need not disintermediate banks in any way. CBDC may, in fact, lead to an expansion of bank deposits if CBDCcompetition compels banks to raise their deposit rates.

Understanding Lowflation

Central banks are viewed as having a demonstrated ability to lower long-run inflation. Since the financial crisis, however, the central banks in some jurisdictions seem almost powerless to accomplish the opposite. In this article, we offer an explanation for why this may be the case. Because central banks have limited instruments, long-run inflation is ultimately determined by fiscal policy. Central bank control of long-run inflation therefore ultimately hinges on its ability to gain fiscal compliance with its objectives. This ability is shown to be inherently easier for a central bank determined to lower inflation than for a central bank determined to accomplish the opposite. Among other things, the analysis here suggests that for the central banks of advanced economies, any stated inflation target is more credibly viewed as a ceiling.

Fiscal Multipliers and Financial Crises

What type of fiscal policy is most effective during a financial crisis? I study the macroeconomic effects of the US fiscal policy response to the Great Recession, accounting not only for standard tools such as government purchases and transfers but also for financial sector interventions such as bank recapitalizations and credit guarantees. A nonlinear quantitative model calibrated to the US allows me to study the state-dependent effects of different types of fiscal policies. I combine the model with data on the US fiscal policy response to find that the fall in aggregate consumption would have been 50% worse in the absence of that response with a cumulative loss of 9.16%. Transfers and bank recapitalizations yielded the largest fiscal multipliers at the height of the crisis, due to new transmission channels that arise from linkages between household and bank balance sheets.

Why did Rich Families Increase their Fertility? Inequality and Marketization of Child Care

A negative relationship between income and fertility has persisted for so long that its existence is often taken for granted. One economic theory builds on this relationship and argues that rising inequality leads to greater differential fertility between rich and poor. We show that the relationship between income and fertility has flattened between 1980 and 2010 in the US, a time of increasing inequality, as high income families increased their fertility. These facts challenge the standard theory. We propose that marketization of parental time costs can explain the changing relationship between income and fertility. We show this result both theoretically and quantitatively, after disciplining the model on US data. We explore implications of changing differential fertility for aggregate human capital. Additionally, policies, such as the minimum wage, that affect the cost of marketization, have a negative effect on the fertility and labor supply of high income women. We end by discussing the insights of this theory to the economics of marital sorting.

On the Benefits of Currency Reform

Money allows agents to achieve allocations that are not possible without it. However, currency in most economies is a uniform object, and there may be incentive compatible allocations that cannot be implemented with a uniform currency. We show that currency reform, ie, changing the monetary base by replacing one currency with another, is a powerful tool that can enable a monetary authority to achieve a desired allocation. Our monetary mechanism with currency reform is anonymous and features a nonlinear exchange rate between currencies and a monotone value of money. These results help interpret the characteristics of currency reforms observed in practice.

Insurance and Inequality with Persistent Private Information

We study optimal insurance contracts for an agent with Markovian private information. Our main results characterize the implications of constrained efficiency for long-run welfare and inequality. Under minimal technical conditions, there is Absolute Immiseration: in the long run, the agent’s consumption and utility converge to their lower bounds. When types are persistent and utility is unbounded below, there is Relative Immiseration: low-type agents are immiserated at a faster rate than high-type agents, and “pathwise welfare inequality” grows without bound. These results extend and substantially generalize the hallmark findings from the classic literature with iid types, suggesting that the underlying forces are robust to a broad class of private information processes. The proofs rely on novel recursive techniques and martingale arguments. When the agent has CARA utility, we also analytically and numerically characterize the short-run properties of the optimal contract. Persistence gives rise to qualitat-ively novel short-run dynamics and allocative distortions (or “wedges”) and, quantitatively, induces less efficient risk-sharing. We compare properties of the wedges to their counterparts in the dynamic taxation literature.

The 2008 U.S. Auto Market Collapse

​New vehicle sales in the U.S. fell nearly 40 percent during the last recession, causing significant job losses and unprecedented government interventions in the auto industry. This paper explores two potential explanations for this decline: falling home values and falling households' income expectations. First, we establish that declining home values explain only a small portion of the observed reduction in vehicle sales. Using a county-level panel from the episode, we find: (1) A one-dollar fall in home values reduced new vehicle spending by about 0.9 cents; and (2) Falling home values explain approximately 19 percent of the aggregate vehicle spending decline. Next, examining state-level data from 1997-2016, we find: (3) The short-run responses of vehicle consumption to home value changes are larger in the 2005-2011 period relative to other years, but at longer horizons (e.g. 5 years), the responses are similar across the two sub-periods; and (4) The service flow from vehicles, as measured from miles traveled, responds very little to house price shocks. We also detail the sources of the differences between our findings (1) and (2) from existing research. Second, we establish that declining current and expected future income expectations played an important role in the auto market's collapse. We build a permanent income model augmented to include infrequent, repeated car buying. Our calibrated model matches the pre-recession distribution of auto vintages and exhibits a large vehicle sales decline in response to a moderate decline in expected permanent income. In response to the decline in permanent income, households delay replacing existing vehicles, allowing them smooth the effects of the income shock without significantly adjusting the service flow from their vehicles. Combining our negative results regarding housing wealth with our positive model-based findings, we interpret the auto market collapse as consistent with existing permanent income based approaches to durable goods consumption (e.g., Leahy and Zeira (2005)).

Imperfect Information Transmission from Banks to Investors: Macroeconomic Implications

We study the interaction of information production in loan-backed asset markets and credit allocation in a general equilibrium framework. Originating banks can screen their borrowers, but can inform investors of their asset type only through an error-prone rating technology. The premium paid on highly rated assets emerges as the main determinant of screening effort. Because the rating technology is imperfect, this premium is insufficient to induce the efficient level of screening. However, the fact that banks know their asset quality and produce ratings accordingly helps keep the premium high. Mandatory rating, certified review, and mandatory ratings disclosure policies interfere with this decision margin, thereby reducing informativeness of high ratings, lowering the premium paid on them, and exacerbating the credit misallocation problem. We perform optimal policy analysis.

A Search-Based Neoclassical Model of Capital Reallocation

As a form of investment, the importance of capital reallocation between firms has been increasing over time, with the purchase of used capital accounting for 25% to 40% of firms total investment nowadays. Cross-firm reallocation of used capital also exhibits intriguing business-cycle properties, such as (i) the illiquidity of used capital is countercyclical (or the quantity of used capital reallocation across firms is procyclical), (ii) the prices of used capital are procyclical and more so than those of new capital goods, and (iii) the dispersion of firms' TFP or MPK (or the benefit of capital reallocation) is countercyclical. We build a search-based neoclassical model to qualitatively and quantitatively explain these stylized facts. We show that search frictions in the capital market are essential for our empirical success but not sufficient---financial frictions and endogenous movements in the distribution of firm-level TFP (or MPK) and interactions between used-capital investment and new investment are also required to simultaneously explain these stylized facts, especially that prices of used capital are more volatile than that of new investment and the dispersion of firm TFP is countercyclical.

Bank runs without sequential service

Banking models in the tradition of Diamond and Dybvig (1983) rely on sequential service to explain belief driven runs. But the run-like phenomena witnessed during the financial crisis of 200708 occurred in the wholesale shadow banking sector where sequential service is largely absent. This suggests that something other than sequential service is needed to help explain runs. We show that in the absence of sequential service runs can easily occur whenever bank-funded in-vestments are subject to increasing returns to scale consistent with available evidence. Our framework is used to understand and evalu-ate recent banking and money market regulations.

Financial Development and International Trade

This paper studies the industry-level and aggregate implications of financial development on international trade. I set up a multi-industry general equilibrium model of international trade with heterogeneous firms subject to financial frictions. Industries differ in capital-intensity, which leads to differences in external finance dependence. The model is parameterized to match key features of firm-level data. Financial development leads to substantial reallocation of international trade shares from labor- to capital-intensive industries, with minor effects at the aggregate-level. These findings are consistent with estimates from cross-country industry-level and aggregate data.

Majority Voting in a Model of Means Testing

We study a model of endogenous means testing where households differ in their income and where the in-kind transfer received by each household declines with income. Majority voting determines the two dimensions of public policy: the size of the welfare program and the means-testing rate. We establish the existence of a sequential majority voting equilibrium and show that the means-testing rate increases with the size of the program but the fraction and the identity of the households receiving the transfers are independent of the program size. Furthermore, the set of subsidy recipients does not depend on households' preferences, but depends only on income heterogeneity.

Sovereign Debt Restructurings

Sovereign debt crises involve debt restructurings characterized by a mix of face-value haircuts and maturity extensions. The prevalence of maturity extensions has been hard to reconcile with economic theory. We develop a model of endogenous debt restructuring that captures key facts of sovereign debt and restructuring episodes. While debt dilution pushes for negative maturity extensions, three factors are important in overcoming the effects of dilution and generating maturity extensions upon restructurings: income recovery after default, credit exclusion after restructuring, and regulatory costs of book-value haircuts. We employ dynamic discrete choice methods that allow for smoother decision rules, rendering the problem tractable.

Long-Term Finance and Investment with Frictional Asset Markets

Trading frictions in financial markets affect more long- than short-term bonds generating an upward sloping yield curve. Long-term financing is more expensive in economies with higher trading frictions so firms choose to borrow and invest in shorter horizons and lower productivity projects. The theory guides a new identification of the slope of liquidity spread in the data. We measure and calibrate the model for the US, and counterfactual exercises suggest that variations in trading frictions can have significant effects on maturity choices and investment. A policy intervention improves liquidity, reduce long-term financial costs and promotes investment in longer-term projects.

Explaining Intergenerational Mobility: The Role of Fertility and Family Transfers

Poor families have more children and transfer less resources to them. This suggests that family decisions about fertility and transfers dampen intergenerational mobility. To evaluate the quantitative importance of this mechanism, we extend the standard heterogeneous agent life cycle model with earnings risk and credit constraints to allow for endogenous fertility, family transfers, and education. The model, estimated to the US in the 2000s, implies that a counterfactual flat income-fertility profile would-through the equalization of initial conditions-increase intergenerational mobility by 6%. The impact of a counterfactual constant transfer per child is twice as large.

Uniform Pricing Within and Across Regions: New Evidence from Argentina

We compile a new database of grocery prices in Argentina, with over 9 million observations per day. Our main novel finding is that product prices almost do not vary within stores of a chain (i.e., uniform pricing). We also find that prices do not change significantly with regional conditions or shocks, particularly so for chains that operate in many regions. To study the impact of uniform pricing on both consumers and firms, this paper uses a tractable model based on the trade literature. Motivated by our empirical findings, each firm has to set the same price in both regions. Relative to a counterfactual in which firms can set different prices across regions (i.e., flexible pricing), uniform pricing reduces firms’ profits by 0.4%. Consumers, however, prefer uniform pricing and are willing to give up 6.7% of their income to avoid flexible pricing in the baseline model. The effect on consumers, however, depends on how much uniform pricing limits firms’ power to extract consumer surplus and how heterogeneous the regions are.

International Credit Markets and Global Business Cycles

This paper stresses a new channel through which global financial linkages contribute to the co-movement in economic activity across countries. We show in a two-country setting with borrowing constraints that international credit markets are subject to self-fulfilling variations in the world real interest rate. Those expectation-driven changes in the borrowing cost in turn act as global shocks that induce strong cross-country co-movements in both financial and real variables (such as asset prices, GDP, consumption, investment and employment). When firms around the world benefit from unexpectedly low debt repayments today, they borrow and invest more, which leads to excessive supply of collateral and of loanable funds at a low interest rate, thus fueling a boom in both home and foreign economies. As a consequence, business cycles are synchronized internationally. Such a stylized model thus offers one way to rationalize both the existence of world business-cycle factor documented by recent empirical studies through dynamic factor analysis and such a factor’s intimate link to global financial markets.

Long and Plosser Meet Bewley and Lucas

We develop a N-sector business cycle network model a la Long and Plosser (1983), featuring heterogenous money demand a la Bewley (1980) and Lucas (1980). Despite incomplete markets and a well-defined distribution of real money balances across heteroge-neous households, the enriched N-sector network model remains analytically tractable with closed-form solutions up to the aggregate level. Relying on the tractability, we establish several important results: (i) The economys input-output network linkages become en-dogenously time-varying over the business cyclethanks to the influence of the endogenous distribution of money demand on cross-sector allocations of commodities. (ii) Despite flex-ible prices, money is neither neutral nor superneutral and transitory monetary injections can generate highly persistent effects on sectoral output, thanks to the time-varying distri-bution of money demand and its effect on input-output coefficients. (iii) Although money injection is distributed equally across households by design, the real effects are asymmetric across production sectors, e.g., the impact of money is strongest on downstream sectors that purchase intermediate goods from the rest of the economy, but weakest on upstream sectors that supply intermediate goods to the other sectors, in sharp contrast to the case of sectoral technology shocks and government spending shocks. Our model also shows that movements in the distribution of money demand could be an important source of the measured labor wedge documented by the business cycle accounting literature.

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

We examine homeowner vacancy rates over time and space using Markov-switching models. Our theoretical analysis extends the Wheaton (1990) search and matching model for housing by incorporating regime-switching behavior and interregional spillovers. Our approach is strongly supported by our empirical results. Estimations, using constant-only as well as Vector Autoregressions, 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 (e.g., low or high vacancy) of a given housing market. Estimated vacancy rates, conditional on the vacancy regime, which are found to be persistent, vary across regions in all Markov-Switching Vector Autoregression (MS-VAR) models. Models allowing for interregional effects via lagged vacancy rates and controls relating to migration 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.


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