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

Monetary Policy/Macroeconomics

Of Cities and Slums

The emergence of slums is a common feature in a country''s path towards urbanization, structural transformation and development. Based on salient micro and macro evidence of Brazilian labor, housing and education markets, we construct a simple model to examine the conditions for slums to emerge. We then use the model to examine whether slums are barriers or stepping stones for lower skilled households and for the development of the country as a whole. We calibrate our model to explore the dynamic interaction between skill formation, income inequality and structural transformation with the rise (and potential fall) of slums in Brazil. We then conduct policy counterfactuals. For instance, we find that cracking down on slums could slow down the acquisition of human capital, the growth of cities (outside slums) and non-agricultural employment. The impact of reducing housing barriers to entry into cities and of different forms of school integration between the city and the slums is also explored.

A Survey of the Empirical Literature on U.S. Unconventional Monetary Policy

This paper reviews and critically evaluates the empirical literature on the effects of U.S. unconventional monetary policy on both financial markets and the real economy. In order to understand how such policies could work, we also briefly review the literature on the theory of such policies. We show that event studies provide very strong evidence that U.S. unconventional policy announcements have strongly influenced international bond yields, exchange rates, and equity prices in the desired manner. In addition, such studies indicate that such policies curtailed market perceptions of extreme events. Calibrated modeling and vector autoregressive (VAR) exercises strongly suggest that these policies significantly improved macroeconomic outcomes, raising U.S. GDP and CPI, through these changes in asset prices. Both event studies and VARs imply positive international spillovers of such policies.

Openness and the Optimal Taxation of Foreign Know-How

Developing countries frequently offer tax incentives and even subsidize the entry and operation of foreign firms. I examine the optimality of such policies in an economy where growth is driven by entrepreneurial know-how, a skill that is continuously updated on the basis of the productive ideas implemented in the country. Openness allows foreign ideas to disseminate inside a country and can foster the country’'s domestic accumulation of know- how. With externalities, however, laissez-faire openness is suboptimal and can be growth-and even welfare-reducing. I examine the gains from openness under an optimal taxation program –the self-funding taxes on domestic and foreign …firms that maximize the welfare of the recipient country, subject to the equilibrium behavior of national and foreign firms. Under optimal taxation, openness is always welfare enhancing and leads lagging countries to catch up with the world frontier. Yet, a country may want to subsidize the entry of foreign …firms only if it can also subsidize the domestic accumulation of know-how. I also consider the optimal tax program under a number of restrictions that developing countries typically face. For instance, a country must not subsidize entry of foreign firms if doing so requires taxing the concurrent cohort of domestic firms. Similarly, an international agreement that requires equal taxation of domestic and foreign firms can be welfare reducing for a country close to the knowledge frontier.

The Value of Constraints on Discretionary Government Policy

This paper investigates how institutional constraints discipline the behavior of discretionary governments subject to an expenditure bias. The focus is on constraints implemented in actual economies: monetary policy targets, limits on the deficit and debt ceilings. For a variety of aggregate shocks considered, the best policy is to impose a minimum primary surplus of about half a percent of output. Most welfare gains from constraining government behavior during normal times, which to a large extent is sufficient to discipline policy in adverse times. Monetary policy targets are not generally desirable as they hinder the ability of governments to smooth distortions. Allowing for the effective use of inflation during transitions is a key component of good institutional design. Debt ceilings are benign, but always dominated by deficit constraints. More pre-commitment to government actions is ineffective in curbing inefficiently high public expenditure.

Vocational Considerations and Trends in Social Security Disability

Along with health, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) evaluates work-limiting disability by considering vocational factors including age, education, and past work experience. As the number of SSDI applicants and awards has increased, these vocational criteria are increasingly important to acceptances and denials. A unique state-level dataset allows us to estimate how these factors relate to the SSDI award process. These estimates are used to asses how changes to the demographic and occupational composition have contributed to awards trends. In our results, the prevalence of workers in their 50s are especially important. Further, increasing educational attainment lowers applications and vocational awards.

Nominal rigidities in debt and product markets

Standard models used for monetary policy analysis rely on sticky prices. Recently, the literature started to explore also nominal debt contracts. Focusing on mortgages, this paper compares the two channels of transmission within a common framework. The sticky price channel is dominant when shocks to the policy interest rate are temporary, the mortgage channel is important when the shocks are persistent. The first channel has significant aggregate effects but small redistributive effects. The opposite holds for the second channel. Using yield curve data decomposed into temporary and persistent components, the redistributive and aggregate consequences are found to be quantitatively comparable.

The Visible Hand: The Role of Government in China’s Long-Awaited Industrial Revolution

China is undergoing its long-awaited industrial revolution. There is no shortage of commentary and opinion on this dramatic period, but few have attempted to provide a coherent, in-depth, political economic framework that explains the fundamental mechanisms behind China’s rapid industrialization. This article reviews the New Stage Theory of economic development put forth by Wen (2016a). It illuminates the critical sequence of developmental stages since the reforms enacted by Deng Xiaoping in 1978: namely, small-scale commercialized agricultural production, proto-industrialization in the countryside, a formal industrial revolution based on mass production of labor-intensive light consumer goods, a sustainable “industrial trinity” boom in energy/motive power/infrastructure, and a second industrial revolution involving the mass production of heavy industrial goods. This developmental sequence follows essentially the same pattern as Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution, despite sharp differences in political and institutional conditions. One of the key conclusions exemplified by China’s economic rise is that the extent of industrialization is limited by the extent of the market. One of the key strategies behind the creation and nurturing of a continually growing market in China is based on this premise: The free market is a public good that is very costly for nations to create and support. Market creation requires a powerful “mercantilist” state and the correct sequence of developmental stages; China has been successfully accomplishing its industrialization through these stages, backed by measured, targeted reforms and direct participation from its central and local governments.

Near-Money Premiums, Monetary Policy, and the Integration of Money Markets: Lessons from Deregulation

The 1960s and 1970s witnessed rapid growth in the markets for new money market instruments, such as negotiable certificates of deposit (CDs) and Eurodollar deposits, as banks and investors sought ways around various regulations affecting funding markets. In this paper, we investigate the impacts of the deregulation and integration of the money markets. We find that the pricing and volume of negotiable CDs and Eurodollars issued were influenced by the availability of other short-term safe assets, especially Treasury bills. Banks appear to have issued these money market instruments as substitutes for other types of funding. The integration of money markets and ability of banks to raise funds using a greater variety of substitutable instruments has implications for monetary policy. We find that, when deregulation reduced money market segmentation, larger open market operations were required to produce a given change in the federal funds rate, but that the pass through of changes in the funds rate to other market rates was also greater.

Effects of Credit Supply on Unemployment and Inequality

The Great Recession, which was preceded by the financial crisis, resulted in higher unemployment and inequality. We propose a simple model where firms producing varieties face labor-market frictions and credit constraints. In the model, tighter credit leads to lower output, lower number of vacancies, and higher directed-search unemployment. Where workers are more productive at higher levels of firm output, lower credit supply increases firm capital intensity, raises inequality by increasing the rental of capital relative to the wage, and has an ambiguous effect on welfare. At initial high levels of labor share in total costs tighter credit lowers welfare. This pattern reverses during an expansionary phase caused by higher credit availability.

Nonlinearities, Smoothing and Countercyclical Monetary Policy

Empirical analysis of the Fed’s monetary policy behavior suggests that the Fed smooths interest rates— that is, the Fed moves the federal funds rate target in several small steps instead of one large step with the same magnitude. We evaluate the effect of countercyclical policy by estimating a Vector Autoregression (VAR) with regime switching. Because the size of the policy shock is important in our model, we can evaluate the effect of smoothing the interest rate on the path of macro variables. Our model also allows for variation in transition probabilities across regimes, depending on the level of output growth. Thus, changes in the stance of monetary policy affect the macroeconomic variables in a nonlinear way, both directly and indirectly through the state of the economy. We also incorporate a factor summarizing overall sentiment into the VAR to determine if sentiment changes substantially around turning points and whether they are indeed important to understanding the effects of policy.

The Postwar Conquest of the Home Ownership Dream

Post-World War II witnessed the largest housing boom in recent history. This paper develops a quantitative equilibrium model of tenure choice to analyze the key determinants in the co-movement between home-ownership and house prices over the period 1940-1960. The parameterized model matches key features and is capable of accounting for the observed housing boom. The key driver in understanding this boom is an asymmetric productivity change that favors the goods sector relative to the construction sector. Other factors such as demographics, income risk, and government policy are important determinants of the homeownership rate but have small effect on house prices.

Local and Aggregate Fiscal Policy Multipliers

In this paper, we estimate the effect of defense spending on the U.S. macroeconomy since World War II. First, we construct a new panel dataset of state-level federal defense contracts. Second, we sum observations across states and, using the resulting time series, estimate the aggregate effect of defense spending on national income and employment via instrumental variables. Third, we estimate local multipliers using the state-level data, which measures the relative effect on economic activity due to relative differences in defense spending across states. Comparing the aggregate and local multiplier estimates, we find that the two deliver similar results, providing a case in which local multiplier estimates may be reliable indicators of the aggregate effects of fiscal policy. We also estimate spillovers using interstate commodity flow data and find some evidence of small positive spillovers, which explain part of the (small) difference between the estimated local and aggregate multipliers. Across a wide range of specifications, we estimate income and employment multipliers between zero and 0.5. We reconcile this result with the greater-than-one multipliers found in Nakamura and Steinsson (2014) by analyzing the impact of the Korean War episode in the estimation.

Incentive Compatibility as a Nonnegative Martingale

This paper considers a dynamic Mirrleesian economy and decomposes agents'''' lifetime incentive compatibility (IC) constraints into a sequence of temporal ones. We encode the frequency and severeness of these temporal IC constraints by their associated Lagrange multipliers,showing that the accumulation of the Lagrange multipliers on the consumption part is a nonnegative martingale. It is emphasized that, distinct from the extant literature, this martingale property is derived directly from the IC constraints and so is independent of the optimization of the social planning problem. We apply our fi nding to (i) the characterization of constrained efficient intertemporal wedges in the aggregate, and (ii) the extension of the so-called immiseration to an environment more general than the extant literature.

Long-term Unemployment: Attached and Mismatched?

In this paper, I quantify the contribution of occupation-specific shocks and skills to unemployment duration and its cyclical dynamics. I quantify specific skills using microdata on wages, estimating occupational switching cost as a function of the occupations'' difference in skills. The productivity shocks are consistent with job finding rates by occupation. For the period 1995-2013, the model captures 69.5% of long-term unemployment in the data, while a uniform finding rate delivers only 47.2%. In the Great Recession, the model predicts 72.9% of the long-term unemployment that existed in the data whereas a uniform finding rate would predict 57.8%.

The Sufficient Statistic Approach: Predicting the Top of the Laffer Curve

We provide a formula for the tax rate at the top of the Laffer curve as a function of three elasticities. Our formula applies to static models and to steady states of dynamic models. One of the elasticities that enters our formula has been estimated in the elasticity of taxable income literature. We apply standard empirical methods from this literature to data produced by reforming the tax system in a model economy. We find that these standard methods underestimate the relevant elasticity in models with endogenous human capital accumulation.

Interbank Markets and Banking Crises: New Evidence on the Establishment and Impact of the Federal Reserve

This paper examines the impact of the Federal Reserve’s founding on seasonal pressures and contagion risk in the interbank system. Deposit flows among classes of banks were highly seasonal before 1914; amplitude and timing varied regionally. Panics interrupted normal flows as banks throughout the country sought funds from the central money markets simultaneously. Seasonal pressures and contagion risk in the system were lower by the 1920s, when the Fed provided seasonal liquidity and reserves. Panics returned in the 1930s, due in part to shocks from nonmember banks and because the Fed’s decentralized structure hampered a vigorous response to national crises.

Natural Resources and Global Misallocation

Are production factors allocated efficiently across countries? To differentiate misallocation from factor intensity differences, we provide a new methodology to estimate output shares of natural resources based solely on current rent flows data. With this methodology, we construct a new dataset of estimates for the output shares of natural resources for a large panel of countries. In sharp contrast with Caselli and Feyrer (2007), we find a significant and persistent degree of misallocation of physical capital. We also find a remarkable movement toward efficiency during last 35 years, associated with the elimination of interventionist policies and driven by domestic accumulation. Interestingly, when both physical and human capital can be reallocated, capital would often flow from poor to rich countries.

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.

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 Determinacy under the Threat of 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.

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.

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.

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.


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