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

Explaining Cross-Cohort Differences in Life Cycle Earnings

College-educated workers entering the labor market in 1940 experienced a 4-fold increase in their labor earnings between the ages of 25 and 55; in contrast, the increase was 2.6-fold for those entering the market in 1980. For workers without a college education these figures are 3.6-fold and 1.5-fold, respectively. Why are earnings profiles flatter for recent cohorts? We build a parsimonious model of schooling and human capital accumulation on the job, and calibrate it to earnings statistics of workers from the 1940 cohort. The model accounts for 99 percent of the flattening of earnings profiles for workers with a college education between the 1940 and the 1980 cohorts (52 percent for workers without a college education). The flattening in our model results from a single exogenous factor: the increasing price of skills. The higher skill price induces (i) higher college enrollment for recent cohorts and thus a change in the educational composition of workers and (ii) higher human capital at the start of work life for college-educated workers in the recent cohorts, which implies lower earnings growth over the life cycle.

A Racial Inequality Trap

Why has the U.S. black/white earnings gap remained around 40 percent for nearly 40 years? This paper''''s answer consists of a model of skill accumulation and neighborhood formation featuring a trap: Initial racial inequality and racial preferences induce racial segregation and asymmetric skill accumulation choices that perpetuate racial inequality. Calibrated to match the U.S. distribution of race, house prices and earnings across neighborhoods, the model produces one-half of the observed racial earnings gap. Moving the economy from the trap to a racially integrated steady state implies a 15.6 percent welfare gain for black households and a 2.7 percent loss for white households.

Mortgages and Monetary Policy

Mortgages are long-term loans with nominal payments. Consequently, under incomplete asset markets, monetary policy can affect housing investment and the economy through the cost of new mortgage borrowing and real payments on outstanding debt. These channels, distinct from traditional real rate channels, are embedded in a general equilibrium model. The transmission mechanism is found to be stronger under adjustable- than fixed-rate mortgages. Further, monetary policy shocks affecting the level of the nominal yield curve have larger real effects than transitory shocks, affecting its slope. Persistently higher inflation gradually benefits homeowners under FRMs, but hurts them immediately under ARMs.

Interest Rate Dynamics, Variable-Rate Loan Contracts, and the Business Cycle

The interest rate at which US firms borrow funds has two features: (i) it moves in a countercyclical fashion and (ii) it is an inverted leading indicator of real economic activity: low interest rates forecast booms in GDP, consumption, investment, and employment. We show that a Kiyotaki-Moore model accounts for both properties when business-cycle movements are driven, in a significant way, by animal spirit shocks to credit-financed investment demand. The credit-based nature of such self-fulfilling equilibria is shown to be essential: the dynamic correlation between current loanable funds rate and future aggregate economic activity depends critically on the property that the loan has a variable-rate component. In addition, Bayesian estimation of our benchmark DSGE model on US data 1975-2010 shows that movements in investment driven by animal spirits are quantitatively important and result in a better fit to the data than both standard RBC models and Kiyotaki-Moore type models with unique equilibrium.

Specification and Estimation of Bayesian Dynamic Factor Models: A Monte Carlo Analysis with an Application to Global House Price Comovement

We compare methods to measure comovement in business cycle data using multi-level dynamic factor models. To do so, we employ a Monte Carlo procedure to evaluate model performance for different specifications of factor models across three different estimation procedures. We consider three general factor model specifications used in applied work. The first is a single- factor model, the second a two-level factor model, and the third a three-level factor model. Our estimation procedures are the Bayesian approach of Otrok and Whiteman (1998), the Bayesian state space approach of Kim and Nelson (1998) and a frequentist principal components approach. The latter serves as a benchmark to measure any potential gains from the more computationally intensive Bayesian procedures. We then apply the three methods to a novel new dataset on house prices in advanced and emerging markets from Cesa-Bianchi, Cespedes, and Rebucci (2015) and interpret the empirical results in light of the Monte Carlo results.

Real-Time Forecasting with a Large, Mixed Frequency, Bayesian VAR

We assess point and density forecasts from a mixed-frequency vector autoregression (VAR) to obtain intra-quarter forecasts of output growth as new information becomes available. The econometric model is specified at the lowest sampling frequency; high frequency observations are treated as different economic series occurring at the low frequency. We impose restrictions on the VAR to account explicitly for the temporal ordering of the data releases. Because this type of data stacking results in a high-dimensional system, we rely on Bayesian shrinkage to mitigate parameter proliferation. The relative performance of the model is compared to forecasts from various time-series models and the Survey of Professional Forecaster''s. We further illustrate the possible usefulness of our proposed VAR for causal analysis.

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.

Nominal Exchange Rate Determinacy under the Threat of Currency Counterfeiting

We study the endogenous choice to accept fiat objects as media of exchange and their implications for nominal exchange rate determination. We consider a two-country environment with two currencies which can be used to settle any transactions. However, currencies can be counterfeited at a fixed cost and the decision to counterfeit is private information. This induces equilibrium liquidity constraints on the currencies in circulation. We show that the threat of counterfeiting can pin down the nominal exchange rate even when the currencies are perfect substitutes, thus breaking the Kareken-Wallace indeterminacy result. When the two currencies are not perfect substitutes, an international currency can exist whereby one country has two currencies circulating while the other country uses only one. We also find that with appropriate fiscal policies we can enlarge the set of monetary equilibria with determinate nominal exchange rates. Finally, we show that the threat of counterfeiting can also help determine nominal exchange rates in a variety of different trading environments.

On the Theoretical Efficacy of Quantitative Easing at the Zero Lower Bound

We construct a monetary economy in which agents face aggregate demand shocks and hetero- generous idiosyncratic preference shocks. We show that, even when the Friedman rule is the best interest rate policy, not all agents are satiated at the zero lower bound. Thus, quantitative easing can be welfare improving since it temporarily relaxes the liquidity constraint of some agents, without harming others. Moreover, due to a pricing externality, quantitative easing may also have beneficial general equilibrium effects for the unconstrained agents. Lastly, our model suggests that it can be optimal for the central bank to buy private debt claims instead of government debt.

Local Fiscal Multipliers, Negative Spillovers and the Macroeconomy

This paper analyzes the impact of within-state military spending and national military spending on a state''s employment. I estimate that, while within-state spending increases that state''s employment (i.e., a positive local effect), an increase in national military spending ceteris paribus decreases employment in the state (i.e., a negative spillover effect). The combined local and spillover effects imply an aggregate employment effect that is close to zero. The estimates are consistent with a resource reallocation explanation: Persons take jobs in or move to a state with increased military spending, but they leave when increased out-of-state military spending creates opportunities elsewhere. I find support for this interpretation based on estimates of population changes by demographic groups in response to spending shocks.

Tests of Equal Accuracy for Nested Models with Estimated Factors

In this paper we develop asymptotics for tests of equal predictive ability between nested models when factor-augmented regression models are used to forecast. We provide conditions under which the estimation of the factors does not affect the asymptotic distributions developed in Clark and McCracken (2001) and McCracken (2007). This enables researchers to use the existing tabulated critical values when conducting inference despite the presence of estimated predictors. As an intermediate result, we derive the asymptotic properties of the principal components estimator over recursive windows. We provide simulation evidence on the finite sample effects of factor estimation and apply the tests to the case of forecasting excess returns to the S&P 500 Composite Index.

Interest on Reserves, Interbank Lending, and Monetary Policy

A two-sector general equilibrium banking model is constructed to study the functioning of a floor system of central bank intervention. Only retail banks can hold reserves, and these banks are also subject to a capital requirement, which creates “balance sheet costs” of holding reserves. An increase in the interest rate on reserves has very different qualitative effects from a reduction in the central bank’s balance sheet. Increases in the central bank’s balance sheet can have redistributive effects, and can reduce welfare. A reverse repo facility at the central bank puts a floor un- der the interbank interest rate, and is always welfare improving. However, an increase in reverse repos outstanding can increase the margin between the interbank interest rate and the interest rate on government debt.

Credit Search and Credit Cycles

The supply and demand of credit are not always well aligned and matched, as is reflected in the countercyclical excess reserve-to-deposit ratio and interest spread between the lending rate and the deposit rate. We develop a search-based theory of credit allocations to explain the cyclical fluctuations in both bank reserves and the interest spread. We show that search frictions in the credit market can not only naturally explain the countercyclical bank reserves and interest spread, but also generate endogenous business cycles driven primarily by the cyclical utilization rate of credit resources, as long conjectured by the Austrian school of the business cycle. In particular, we show that credit search can lead to endogenous local increasing returns to scale and variable capital utilization in a model with constant returns to scale production technology and matching functions, thus providing a micro-foundation for the indeterminacy literature of Benhabib and Farmer (1994) and Wen (1998).

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.

The Evolution of Scale Economies in U.S. Banking

Continued consolidation of the U.S. banking industry and a general increase in the size of banks has prompted some policymakers to consider policies that discourage banks from getting larger, including explicit caps on bank size. However, limits on the size of banks could entail economic costs if they prevent banks from achieving economies of scale. This paper presents new estimates of returns to scale for U.S. banks based on nonparametric, local-linear estimation of bank cost, revenue and profit functions. We report estimates for both 2006 and 2015 to compare returns to scale some seven years after the financial crisis and five years after enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act with returns to scale before the crisis. We find that a high percentage of banks faced increasing returns to scale in cost in both years, including most of the 10 largest bank holding companies. And, while returns to scale in revenue and profit vary more across banks, we find evidence that the largest four banks operate under increasing returns to scale.

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.

On the Need for a Replication Journal

There is very little replication of research in economics, particularly compared with other sciences. This paper argues that there is a dire need for studies that replicate research, that their scarcity is due to poor or negative rewards for replicators, and that this could be improved with a journal that exclusively publishes replication studies. I then discuss how such a journal could be organized, in particular in the face of some negative rewards some replication studies may elicit.

Current Federal Reserve Policy Under the Lens of Economic History: A Review Essay

This review essay is intended as a critical review of Humpage (2015), and it expands on the issues raised in that volume. Federal Reserve Policy during the financial crisis, and in its aftermath are addressed, along with the relationship to historical experience in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

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.

FRED-MD: A Monthly Database for Macroeconomic Research

This paper describes a large, monthly frequency, macroeconomic database with the goal of establishing a convenient starting point for empirical analysis that requires "big data." The dataset mimics the coverage of those already used in the literature but has three appealing features. First, it is designed to be updated monthly using the FRED database. Second, it will be publicly accessible, facilitating comparison of related research and replication of empirical work. Third, it will relieve researchers from having to manage data changes and revisions. We show that factors extracted from our dataset share the same predictive content as those based on various vintages of the so-called Stock-Watson dataset. In addition, we suggest that diffusion indexes constructed as the partial sum of the factor estimates can potentially be useful for the study of business cycle chronology.

Banker Preferences, Interbank Connections, and the Enduring Structure of the Federal Reserve System

Established by a three person committee in 1914, the structure of the Federal Reserve System has remained essentially unchanged ever since, despite criticism at the time and over ensuing decades. This paper examines the original selection of cities for Reserve Banks and branches, and placement of district boundaries. We show that each aspect of the Fed’s structure reflected the preferences of national banks, including adjustments to district boundaries after 1914. Further, using newly-collected data on interbank connections, we find that banker preferences mirrored established correspondent relationships. The Federal Reserve was thus formed on top of the structure that it was largely meant to replace.

Optimal Monetary Policy at the Zero Lower Bound

We study optimal monetary policy at the zero lower bound. The macroeconomy we study has considerable income inequality which gives rise to a large private sector credit market. Households participating in this market use non-state contingent nominal contracts (NSCNC). A second, small group of households only uses cash and cannot participate in the credit market. The monetary authority supplies currency to cash-using households in a way that changes the price level to provide for optimal risk-sharing in the private credit market and thus to overcome the NSCNC friction. For sufficiently large and persistent negative shocks the zero lower bound on nominal interest rates may threaten to bind. The monetary authority may credibly promise to increase the price level in this situation to maintain a smoothly functioning (complete) credit market. The optimal monetary policy in this model can be broadly viewed as a version of nominal GDP targeting.

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 reduction of about 0.55 million U.S. manufacturing jobs, about 16% 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.

The experience of the RePEc Plagiarism Committee in economics

RePEc is an open bibliography project driven entirely by volunteers and without a budget. It was created to enhance the dissemination of research in economics by making it more accessible to authors, publishers, and readers: 1800 publishers participate in this initiative, and 44000 authors are registered. Some of those authors became frustrated when their work was plagiarized and no action was taken. Many have asked whether RePEc could take action. The RePEc Plagiarism Committee was created to respond to this request. Because RePEc has no enforcement power, it can only “name and shame” verified offenders. This essay discusses the experience over the first years of the Committee.

Fertility Shocks and Equilibrium Marriage-Rate Dynamics

Why did the marriage probability of single females in France after World War 1 rise 50% above its pre-war average, despite a 33% drop in the male/female singles ratio? We conjecture that war-time disruption of the marriage market generated an abnormal abundance of men with relatively high marriage propensities. Our model of matching over the lifecycle, when calibrated to pre-war data and two war-time shocks, succeeds in matching the French time path under the additional assumption of a pro-natalist post-war preference shock. We conclude that endogeneity issues make the sex ratio a potentially unreliable indicator of female marriage prospects.

The Making of an Economic Superpower---Unlocking China’s Secret of Rapid Industrialization

The rise of China is no doubt one of the most important events in world economic history since the Industrial Revolution. Mainstream economics, especially the institutional theory of development based on a dichotomy of extractive vs. inclusive political institutions, is highly inadequate in explaining China’s rise. This article argues that only a radical reinterpretation of the history of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the West (as incorrectly portrayed by neoliberalism and the institutional theory) can fully explain China’s growth miracle and why the determined rise of China is unstoppable despite its current “backward” financial system and political institutions. Conversely, China’s spectacular and rapid transformation from an impoverished agrarian society to a formidable industrial superpower sheds considerable light on the fundamental weakness of mainstream “blackboard” economics and the institutional theory, and provides more-accurate reevaluations of historical episodes such as Africa’s enduring poverty trap despite radical political and economic reforms, Latin America’s lost decade and debt crises, 19th century Europe’s great escape from the Malthusian trap, and the Industrial Revolution itself.

Self-Fulfilling Credit Cycles

In U.S. data 1981–2012, unsecured firm credit moves procyclically and tends to lead GDP, while secured firm credit is acyclical; similarly, shocks to unsecured firm credit explain a far larger fraction of output fluctuations than shocks to secured credit. In this paper we develop a tractable dynamic general equilibrium model in which unsecured firm credit arises from self-enforcing borrowing constraints, preventing an efficient capital allocation among heterogeneous firms. Unsecured credit rests on the value that borrowers attach to a good credit reputation which is a forward-looking variable. We argue that self-fulfilling beliefs over future credit conditions naturally generate endogenously persistent business cycle dynamics. A dynamic complementarity between current and future borrowing limits permits uncorrelated sunspot shocks to unsecured debt to trigger persistent aggregate fluctuations in both secured and unsecured debt, factor productivity and output. We show that these sunspot shocks are quantitatively important, accounting for around half of output volatility.


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