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

Applied Microeconomics

Reversal of Gender Gaps in Child Development: Evidence from Young Children in India

This paper provides unique evidence of a reversal of gender gaps in cognitive development in early childhood. We find steep caste and gender gradients and few substantive changes once children enter school. The gender gap, however, reverses its sign for the upper caste, with girls performing better than boys at age 5 but thereafter following the general pattern in India of boys performing better.

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.

Risk Aversion at the Country Level

In this paper the authors estimate the coefficient of relative risk aversion for 75 countries using data on self-reports of personal well-being from the Gallup World Poll. Their analysis suggests that the coefficient of relative risk aversion varies closely around one, which corresponds to a logarithmic utility function. The authors conclude that their results support the use of the log utility function in numerical simulations.

Parenthood and Productivity of Highly Skilled Labor: Evidence from the Groves of Academe

We examine the effect of pregnancy and parenthood on the research productivity of academic economists. Combining the survey responses of nearly 10,000 economists with their publication records as documented in their RePEc accounts, we do not find that motherhood is associated with low research productivity. Nor do we find a statistically significant unconditional effect of a first child on research productivity. Conditional difference-in-differences estimates, however, suggest that the effect of parenthood on research productivity is negative for unmarried women and positive for untenured men. Moreover, becoming a mother before 30 years of age appears to have a detrimental effect on research productivity.

Creating Jobs Via the 2009 Recovery Act: State Medicaid Grant Compared to Broadly-Directed Spending

Researchers have used cross-state differences to assess the jobs impact of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act). Existing studies find that the Act's broadly- directed spending (i.e. excluding tax cuts) increased employment, at a cost-per-job of roughly three to five times that of typical employment compensation in the U.S. Other research finds that a particular component of the Act ─emergency Medicaid grants to states ─created jobs at a cost of 12% to 20% that of broadly-directed spending. This paper shows that these dif- ferences across the components' impacts can be explained by omitted variables in the existing work on the emergency Medicaid grants. Adjusting for the omissions, the jobs effect of the Act's Medicaid grants becomes substantially weaker. The omissions are: (i) not controlling the degree of (non-Recovery Act) federal dependency, (ii) not duly controlling for pre-Act housing and labor market conditions, and (iii) not conditioning on Recovery Act funding beyond that from the Act's Medicaid grants. Adjusting for any one of these omissions, by itself, results in a substantial increase in the cost of job creation and/or no statistically significant jobs effect.

Understanding the Accumulation of Bank and Thrift Reserves during the U.S. Financial Crisis

The level of aggregate excess reserves held by U.S. depository institutions increased significantly at the peak of the 2007-09 financial crisis. Although the amount of aggregate reserves is deter- mined almost entirely by the policy initiatives of the central bank that act on the asset side of its balance sheet, the motivations of individual banks in accumulating reserves differ and respond to the impact of changes in the economic environment on individual institutions. We undertake a systematic analysis of this massive accumulation of excess reserves using bank-level data for more than 7,000 commercial banks and almost 1,000 savings institutions during the U.S. financial crisis. We propose a testable stochastic model of reserves determination when interest is paid on reserves, which we estimate using bank-level data and censored regression methods. We find evidence primarily of a precautionary motive for reserves accumulation with some notable heterogeneity in the response of reserves accumulation to external and internal factors of the largest banks com- pared with smaller banks. We combine propensity score matching and a difference-in-differences approach to determine whether the beneficiaries of the Capital Purchase Program of the Troubled Asset Relief Program accumulated less cash, including reserves, than non-beneficiaries. Contrary to anecdotal evidence, we find that banks that participated in the program accumulated less cash, including reserves, than nonparticipants in the initial quarters after the capital injection.

Investment and Bilateral Insurance

Private information may limit insurance possibilities when a few agents form a partnership to pool idiosyncratic risk. We show that these insurance possibilities can improve if the partnership's income depends on capital accumulation and production, because cheating distorts investment. As agents' weights in the partnership increase, they are more affected by the investment distortion, and their incentives to misreport under the full information allocation are reduced. In the long run, either one of the partners is driven to immiseration, or both partners' lifetime utilities are approximately equal. The second case is only possible with capital accumulation. The theory's testable implications are in line with empirical evidence on the organization of small-business partnerships.

Informal Unemployment Insurance and Labor Market Dynamics

How do job losers use default -- a phenomenon 6x more prevalent than bankruptcy --as a type of “informal" unemployment insurance, and more importantly, what are the social costs and benefits of this behavior? To this end, I establish several new facts: (i) job loss is the main reason for default, not negative equity (ii) people default because they are credit constrained and cannot borrow more, and (iii) the value of debt payments is a significant fraction of a defaulter's earnings. Using these facts, I calibrate a general equilibrium model with a frictional labor market similar to Burdett and Mortensen (1998) and Menzio and Shi (2009, 2011) and individually priced debt along the lines of Eaton and Gersovitz (1981) and Chatterjee et al. (2007). After proving the existence of a Block Recursive Equilibrium, I find that the extra self- insurance job losers obtain by defaulting outweighs the subsequent increase in the cost of credit, and as a result, protectionist policies such as the Mortgage Servicer Settlement of 2012 or the CARD Act of 2009 improve overall welfare by .1%. The side effect of the policies, however, is a .2-.5% higher unemployment rate during recessions that persists throughout the recovery.

What Do We Know about the Relationship between Access to Finance and International Trade?

The recent financial crisis has focused attention on the relationship between access to finance and international trade, triggering a burgeoning segment of the literature evaluating this link empirically. We review the role of finance in international trade and the main theories connecting them. Moreover, we provide a structured road map to recent empirical studies while summarizing what we have learned to date about this relationship. We separately analyze studies that rely on aggregate, industry-level, and firm-level data, emphasizing the differences between those that analyze ordinary times and those that focus on banking and financial crises. We discuss the role of diverse measures of access to finance, financial health, and financial vulnerability along with the key challenges in estimating the relationship between trade and finance. We conclude that once the heterogeneity of methodologies and measures of access to and dependence on finance is accounted for, the empirical literature suggests an important role for finance in determining export participation at the extensive margin but weaker results for the intensive margin of trade. Moreover, while empirical studies tend to favor a causal relationship moving from finance to trade, there is some evidence suggesting causality moving in the opposite direction, which merits further investigation.

International Trade, Female Labor, and Entrepreneurship in MENA Countries

Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries stand out in international comparisons of de jure obstacles to female employment and entrepreneurship. These obstacles manifest themselves in low rates of female labor participation, entrepreneurship, and ownership. Recent research suggests a connection between international trade and female labor participation. In this article, the authors focus on the relationship between international trade and gender in the MENA countries. They first analyze female labor as a production factor and then focus on female entrepreneurship and firm ownership. The authors use country- and industry-level data to identify countries and industries characterized by a comparative advantage in female labor. They find evidence suggesting a strong link between a country’s specialization and its measures of female labor participation consistent with theories of brain-based technological bias and factor endowments trade theories. Using firm-level data, the authors then study whether trade empowers female entrepreneurs in country/industry pairs that exhibit comparative advantage. They conclude that the evidence supports the view that exposure to trade disproportionately affects firms in country/industry pairs with a comparative advantage in female labor—both in terms of female employment and female entrepreneurship and ownership—for the MENA countries and the period they study.

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.

Richer but more unequal? Nutrition and caste gaps

Using unique data from very young children in India, we estimate a value-added model of cognition. We use exposure to the Mid Day Meal Scheme interacted with a non-linearity in how birth year exogenously affects the probability of enrollment in public schools as an instrumental variable for nutrition. We find that a 1-standard-deviation (SD) increase in height-for-age at age 5 leads to cognitive test scores 11 to 14 percent of an SD higher at age 8. This result sup- ports the recent literature on catch-up growth, particularly as effects are much larger for children who suffered from drought.

On the substitutability between foreign aid and international credit

We examine the effect of relaxing a binding borrowing constraint for a recipient country on theamount of foreign aid it receives. We do so by developing a two-country, two-period trade-theoretic model. The relaxation of the borrowing constraint reduces the flow of foreign aid, suggesting that the donor views developing nations\' access to international credit markets as a substitute for foreign aid.

The Case Against Patents

The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity. There is strong evidence, instead, that patents have many negative consequences.

An Approximate Dual-Self Model and Paradoxes of Choice under Risk

We derive a simplified version of the model of Fudenberg and Levine [2006, 2011] and show how this approximate model is useful in explaining choice under risk. We show that in the simple case of three outcomes, the model can generate indifference curves that “fan out” in the Marshack-Machina triangle, and thus can explain the well-known Allais and common ratio paradoxes that models such as prospect theory and regret theory are designed to capture. At the same time, our model is consistent with modern macroeconomic theory and evidence and generates predictions across a much wider set of domains than these models.

Evolving to the Impatience Trap: The Example of the Farmer-Sheriff Game

The literature on the evolution of impatience, focusing on one-person decision problems, finds that evolutionary forces favor the more patient individuals. This paper shows that in the context of a game, this is not necessarily the case. In particular, it offers a two- population example where evolutionary forces favor impatience in one group while favoring patience in the other. Moreover, not only evolution but also efficiency may prefer impatient individuals. In our example, it is efficient for one population to evolve impatience and for the other to develop patience. Yet, evolutionary forces move the wrong populations.

Codes of Conduct, Private Information, and Repeated Games

We examine self-referential games in which there is a chance of understanding an opponent’s intentions. Our main focus is on the interaction of two sources of information about opponents’ play: direct observation of the opponent’s code-of-conduct, and indirect observation of the opponent’s play in a repeated setting. Using both sources of information we are able to prove a “folk-like” theorem for repeated self-referential games with private information. This theorem holds even when both sources of information are weak.

Academic Rankings with RePEc

This document describes the data collection and use of data for the computation of rankings within RePEc (Research Papers in Economics). This encompasses the determination of impact factors for journals and working paper series, as well as the ranking of authors, institutions, and geographic regions. The various ranking methods are also compared, using a snapshot of the data.

Author Identification in Economics, ... and Beyond

Identifying authorship correctly and efficiently is a difficult problem when the literature is abundant, but poorly recorded. Homonyms are tedious to differentiate. This paper describes how the field of economics has organized itself with respect to author identification. We describe the RePEc project with a special emphasis on the RePEc Author Service. We then discuss how the concept is currently being expanded to the entire scientific body with the AuthorClaim project.

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.

Lifetime Labor Supply and Human Capital Investment

We develop a model of retirement and human capital investment to study the effects of tax and retirement policies. Workers choose the supply of raw labor (career length) and also the human capital embodied in their labor. Our model explains a significant fraction of the US-Europe difference in schooling and retirement. The model predicts that reforms of the European retirement policies modeled after the US can deliver 15–35 percent gains in per-worker output in the long run. Increased human capital investment in and out of school accounts for most of the gains, with relatively small changes in career length.

Credit Scoring and Loan Default

This paper introduces a measure of credit score performance that abstracts from the influence of "situational factors." Using this measure, we study the role and effectiveness of credit scoring that underlied subprime securities during the mortgage boom of 2000-2006. Parametric and nonparametric measures of credit score performance reveal different trends, especially on originations with low credit scores. The paper demonstrates an increasing trend of reliance on credit scoring not only as a measure of credit risk but also as a means to offset other riskier attributes of the origination. This reliance led to deterioration in loan performance even though average credit quality—as measured in terms of credit scores— actually improved over the years.

What do happiness and health satisfaction data tell us about relative risk aversion?

In this paper we provide estimates of the coefficient of relative risk aversion using information on self-reports of subjective personal well-being from multiple datasets, including three cross-sectional surveys and two panel surveys, namely the Gallup World Poll, the European Social Survey, the World Values Survey, the British Household Panel Survey for the United Kingdom, and the General Social Survey for the United States. We additionally consider the implications of allowing for health-state dependence in the utility function on the estimates of risk aversion and examine how the marginal utility of income changes in poor health states. Our estimates of relative risk aversion with cross-section data vary closely around 1, which corresponds to logarithmic utility, while the estimates with panel data are slightly larger. We find that controlling for health dependence generally reduces these estimates. In contrast with other studies in the literature, our results also suggest that the marginal utility of income increases when satisfaction with health deteriorates, and this effect is robust across the various datasets analyzed.

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.

The Effects of Female Labor Force Participation on Obesity

This paper assesses whether a causal relationship exists between recent increases in female labor force participation and the increased prevalence of obesity amongst women. The expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the 1980s and 1990s have been established by prior literature as having generated variation in female labor supply, particularly amongst single mothers. Here, we use this plausibly exogenous variation in female labor supply to identify the effect of labor force participation on obesity status. We use data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and replicate labor supply effects of the EITC expansions found in previous literature. This validates employing a difference-in-differences estimation strategy in the NHIS data, as has been done in several other data sets. Depending on the specification, we find that increased labor force participation can account for at most 19% of the observed change in obesity prevalence over our sample period. Our preferred specification, however, suggests that there is no causal link between increased female labor force participation and increased obesity.

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.

Why do Education Vouchers Fail at the Ballot Box?

We compare a uniform voucher regime against the status quo mix of public and private education, focusing on the distribution of welfare gains and losses across house- holds by income. We argue that the topping-up option available under uniform vouchers is not sufficiently valuable for the poorer households, so the voucher regime is defeated at the polls. Our result is robust to partial voter turnout and efficiency differences between public and private schools, but depends critically on the opting-out feature in the current system.

Markov-Perfect Risk Sharing, Moral Hazard and Limited Commitment

We define, characterize and compute Markov-perfect risk-sharing contracts in a dynamic stochastic economy with endogenous asset accumulation and simultaneous limited commitment and moral hazard frictions. We prove that Markov-perfect insurance contracts preserve standard properties of optimal insurance with private information and are not more restrictive than a long-term contract with one-sided commitment. Markov-perfect contracts imply a determinate asset time-path and a non-degenerate long-run stationary wealth distribution. We show numerically that Markov-perfect contracts provide sizably more consumption smoothing relative to self-insurance and that the welfare gains from resolving the commitment friction are larger than the gains from resolving the moral hazard friction at low asset levels, while the opposite holds for high asset levels.

Dynamic Optimal Insurance and Lack of Commitment

We analyze dynamic risk-sharing contracts between profit-maximizing insurers and risk-averse agents who face idiosyncratic income uncertainty and can self-insure through savings. We study Markov-perfect insurance contracts in which neither party can commit beyond the current period. We show that the limited commitment assumption on the insurer''''''''s side is restrictive only when he is endowed with a rate of return advantage and the agent has sufficiently large initial assets. In such a case, the agent''''''''s consumption profile is distorted relative to the first-best. In a Markov-perfect equilibrium, the agent''''''''s asset holdings determine his outside option each period and are thus an integral part of insurance contracts, unlike when the insurer can commit long-term. Whether the parties can contract on the agent''''''''s savings decision affects the Markov-perfect contract as long as the insurer makes positive profits.

Should easier access to international credit replace foreign aid?

We examine the interaction between foreign aid and binding borrowing constraint for a recipient country. We also analyze how these two instruments affect economic growth via non-linear relationships. First of all, we develop a two-country, two-period trade-theoretic model to develop testable hypotheses and then we use dynamic panel analysis to test those hypotheses empirically. Our main findings are that: (i) better access to international credit for a recipient country reduces the amount of foreign aid it receives, and (ii) there is a critical level of international financial transfer, and the marginal effect of foreign aid is larger than that of loans if and only if the transfer (loans or foreign aid) is below this critical level.


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