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Working Papers 2007: Abstracts

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07-34 The Reaction of Consumer Spending and Debt to Tax Rebates: Evidence from Consumer Credit Data
by Sumit Agarwal, Chunlin Liu, and Nicholas Souleles External Link

The authors use a new panel data set of credit card accounts to analyze how consumers responded to the 2001 federal income tax rebates. They estimate the monthly response of credit card payments, spending, and debt, exploiting the unique, randomized timing of the rebate disbursement. They find that, on average, consumers initially saved some of the rebate by increasing their credit card payments and thereby paying down debt. But soon afterward their spending increased, counter to the canonical permanent-income model. Spending rose most for consumers who were initially most likely to be liquidity constrained, whereas debt declined most (so saving rose most) for unconstrained consumers. More generally, the results suggest that there can be important dynamics in consumers' response to "lumpy" increases in income like tax rebates, working in part through balance-sheet (liquidity) mechanisms.
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07-33 Net Worth and Housing Equity in Retirement
by Todd Sinai External Link and Nicholas Souleles External Link

This paper documents the trends in the life-cycle profiles of net worth and housing equity between 1983 and 2004. The net worth of older households significantly increased during the housing boom of recent years. However, net worth grew by more than housing equity, in part because other assets also appreciated at the same time. Moreover, the younger elderly offset rising house prices by increasing their housing debt, and used some of the proceeds to invest in other assets. The authors also consider how much of their housing equity older households can actually tap, using reverse mortgages. This fraction is lower at younger ages, such that young retirees can consume less than half of their housing equity. These results imply that ‘consumable’ net worth is smaller than standard calculations of net worth.
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07-32 Payment Network Scale Economies, SEPA, and Cash Replacement
by Wilko Bolt External Link and David Humphrey

The goal of SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) is to facilitate the emergence of a competitive, intra-European market by making cross-border payments as easy as domestic transactions. With crossborder inter-operability for electronic payments, card transactions will increasingly replace cash and checks for all types of payments. Using different methods, the authors estimate card and other payment network scale economies for Europe. These indicate substantial cost efficiency gains if processing is consolidated across borders rather than "piggybacked" onto existing national operations. Cost reductions likely to induce greater replacement of small value cash transactions are also illustrated.
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07-31 The Anatomy of U.S. Personal Bankruptcy Under Chapter 13
by Hülya Eraslan, Wenli Li, and Pierre-Daniel Sarte

Superseded by Working Paper 14-33.
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07-30 Private Risk Premium and Aggregate Uncertainty in the Model of Uninsurable Investment Risk
by Francisco Covas External Link and Shigeru Fujita

Superseded by Working Paper 11-18
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07-29 Pricing-to-Market and the Failure of Absolute PPP
by George Alessandria and Joseph Kaboski External Link

The authors show that deviations from the law of one price in tradable goods are an important source of violations of absolute PPP across countries. Using highly disaggregated export data, they document systematic international price discrimination: at the U.S. dock, U.S. exporters ship the same good to low-income countries at lower prices. This pricing-to-market is about twice as important as any local non-traded inputs, such as distribution costs, in explaining the differences in tradable prices across countries. The authors propose a model of consumer search that generates pricing-to-market. In this model, consumers in low-income countries have a comparative advantage in producing non-traded, non-market search activities and therefore are more price sensitive than consumers in high-income countries. They present cross-country time use evidence and evidence from U.S. export prices that are consistent with the model.
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07-28 Innovation Across U.S. Industries: The Effects of Local Economic Characteristics
by Gerald A. Carlino and Robert M. Hunt

This paper extends the research in Carlino, Chatterjee, and Hunt (2007) to examine the effects of local economic characteristics on the rate of innovation (as measured by patents) in more than a dozen industries. The availability of human capital is perhaps the most important factor explaining the invention rate for most industries. The authors find some evidence that higher job market density is associated with more patenting in industries such as pharmaceuticals and computers. They find evidence of increasing returns with respect to city size (total jobs) for many industries and more modest effects for increases in the size of an industry in a city. This suggests that inter-industry spillovers are often at least as important as intra-industry spillovers in explaining local rates of innovation. A more competitive local market structure, characterized by smaller establishments, contributes significantly to patenting in nearly all industries. More often than not, specialization among manufacturing industries is not particularly helpful, but the authors find the opposite for specialization among service industries. Industries benefit from different local sources of R&D (academia, government labs, and private labs) and to varying degrees.
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07-27 Interest Rate Versus Money Supply Instruments: On the Implementation of Markov-Perfect Optimal Monetary Policy
by Michael Dotsey and Andreas Hornstein
Superseded by Working Paper 08-30
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07-26 Optimal Pricing of Payment Services When Cash Is An Alternative
by Cyril Monnet and William Roberds

Payments are increasingly being made with payment cards rather than currency — this despite the fact that the operational cost of clearing a card payment usually exceeds the cost of transferring cash. In this paper, the authors examine this puzzle through the lens of monetary theory. They consider the design of an optimal card-based payment system when cash is available as an alternative means of payment, and derive conditions under which cards will be preferred to cash. The authors find that a feature akin to the controversial "no-surcharge rule" may be necessary to ensure the viability of the card payment system. This rule, which is part of the contract between a card provider and a merchant, states that the merchant cannot charge a customer who pays by card more than a customer who pays by cash.
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07-25 Innovation, Cities, and New Work
by Jeffrey Lin
Superseded by Working Paper 09-17 PDF Icon (2.98 MB, 45 pages)

07-24 Idiosyncratic Shocks and the Role of Nonconvexities in Plant and Aggregate Investment Dynamics
by Aubhik Khan and Julia K. Thomas

The authors study a model of lumpy investment wherein establishments face persistent shocks to common and plant-specific productivity, and nonconvex adjustment costs lead them to pursue generalized (S,s) investment rules. They allow persistent heterogeneity in both capital and total factor productivity alongside low-level investments exempt from adjustment costs to develop the first model consistent with the cross-sectional distribution of establishment investment rates. Examining the implications of lumpy investment for aggregate dynamics in this setting, the authors find that they remain substantial when factor supply considerations are ignored, but are quantitatively irrelevant in general equilibrium.

The substantial implications of general equilibrium extend beyond the dynamics of aggregate series. While the presence of idiosyncratic shocks makes the time-averaged distribution of plant-level investment rates largely invariant to market-clearing movements in real wages and interest rates, the authors show that the dynamics of plants' investments differ sharply in their presence. Thus, model-based estimations of capital adjustment costs involving panel data may be quite sensitive to the assumption about equilibrium. Their analysis also offers new insights about how nonconvex adjustment costs influence investment at the plant. When establishments face idiosyncratic productivity shocks consistent with existing estimates, they find that nonconvex costs do not cause lumpy investments, but act to eliminate them.
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07-23 Thick-Market Effects and Churning in the Labor Market: Evidence from U.S. Cities
by Hoyt Bleakley and Jeffrey Lin

Using U.S. Census microdata, the authors show that, on average, workers change occupation and industry less in more densely populated areas. The result is robust to standard demographic controls, as well as to including aggregate measures of human capital and sectoral mix. Analysis of the displaced worker surveys shows that this effect is present in cases of involuntary separation as well. On the other hand, the authors actually find the opposite result (higher rates of occupational and industrial switching) for the subsample of younger workers. These results provide evidence in favor of increasing-returns-to-scale matching in labor markets. Results from a back-of-the-envelope calibration suggest that this mechanism has an important role in raising both wages and returns to experience in denser areas.
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07-22 A Dynamic Model of the Payment System
by Thorsten Koeppl External Link, Cyril Monnet, and Ted Temzelides

The authors study the design of efficient intertemporal payment arrangements when the ability of agents to perform certain welfare-improving transactions is subject to random and unobservable shocks. Efficiency is achieved via a payment system that assigns balances to participants, adjusts them based on the histories of transactions, and periodically resets them through settlement. Their analysis addresses two key issues in the design of actual payment systems. First, efficient use of information requires that agents participating in transactions that do not involve monitoring frictions subsidize those that are subject to such frictions. Second, the payment system should explore the trade-off between higher liquidity costs from settlement and the need to provide intertemporal incentives. In order to counter a higher exposure to default, an increase in settlement costs implies that the volume of transactions must decrease, but also that the frequency of settlement must increase.
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07-21 Business Method Patents for U.S. Financial Services
by Robert M. Hunt
Superseded by Working Paper 08-10
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07-20 Intellectual Property Rights and Standard Setting in Financial Services: The Case of the Single European Payments Area
by Robert M. Hunt, Samuli Simojoki, and Tuomas Takalo External Link

For many reasons, payment systems are subject to strong network effects; one of those is the necessity of interoperability among participants. This is often accomplished via standard-setting organizations. The goal of the Single European Payments Area (SEPA) is to establish modern cross-boarder consumer payment systems for Europe. This too will require a standard-setting arrangement. But patents are also becoming an important feature of electronic payment systems and thus standard setting under SEPA should incorporate a policy to address the ownership and licensing of essential intellectual property. Using examples from the experience of European mobile telephony and financial patenting in the United States, the authors argue that the lack of a well-developed IP policy creates significant risks for participants in the new SEPA payment systems.
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07-19/R The Cyclicality of Separation and Job Finding Rates
by Shigeru Fujita and Garey Ramey External Link

This paper uses CPS gross flow data to analyze the business cycle dynamics of separation and job finding rates and to quantify their contributions to overall unemployment variability. Cyclical changes in the separation rate are negatively correlated with changes in productivity and move contemporaneously with them, while the job finding rate is positively correlated with and tends to lag productivity. Contemporaneous fluctuations in the separation rate explain between 40 and 50 percent of fluctuations in unemployment, depending on how the data are detrended. This figure becomes larger when dynamic interactions between the separation and job finding rates are considered.
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07-18 The Relationship Between the Establishment Age Distribution and Urban Growth
by R. Jason Faberman

This paper presents new evidence on the relationship between a metropolitan area's employment growth and its establishment age distribution. The author finds that cities with a relatively younger distribution of establishments tend to have higher growth, as well as higher job and establishment turnover. Geographic variations in the age distribution account for 38 percent of the geographic differences in growth, compared to the 32 percent accounted for by variations in industry composition. Differences are disproportionately accounted for by entrants and young (5 years or younger) establishments. Furthermore, the relationship between age and growth is robust to controls for urban diversity and education. Overall, the results support a microfoundations view of urban growth, where the benefits of agglomeration affect firms not through some production externality but through a process that determines which firms enter, exit, and thrive at a given location.
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07-17 Establishment Heterogeneity, Exporter Dynamics, and the Effects of Trade Liberalization
by George Alessandria and Horag Choi

The authors study a variation of the Melitz (2003) model, a monopolistically competitive model with heterogeneity in productivity across establishments and fixed costs of exporting. They calibrate the model to match the employment size distribution of U.S. manufacturing establishments. Export participation in the calibrated model is then compared to the data on U.S. manufacturing exporters. With fixed costs of starting to export about 3.9 times as large as costs of continuing as an exporter, the model can match both the size distribution of exporters and transition into and out of exporting. The calibrated model is then used to estimate the effect of reducing tariffs on welfare, trade, and export participation. The authors find sizeable gains to moving to free trade. Contrary to the view that the gains to lowering tariffs are larger in models with export decisions, they find that steady state consumption increases by less in their benchmark model of exporting than in a similar model without fixed costs. However, they also find that comparisons of steady state consumption understate the welfare gains to trade reform in models with fixed costs and overstate the welfare gains in models without fixed costs. With fixed costs, tariffs lead to an overaccumulation of product varieties which can be used more effectively along the transition to the new steady state. Thus, following trade liberalizations economic activity overshoots its steady state, with the peak in output coming 10 years after the trade reform. Finally, the authors explore the impact of the key modelling assumptions in the theoretical literature for quantitative results.
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07-16 A Quantitative Theory of Unsecured Consumer Credit with Risk of Default
by Satyajit Chatterjee, Dean Corbae, Makoto Nakajima, and Jose-Victor Rios-Rull

The authors study, theoretically and quantitatively, the general equilibrium of an economy in which households smooth consumption by means of both a riskless asset and unsecured loans with the option to default. The default option resembles a bankruptcy filing under Chapter 7 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Competitive financial intermediaries offer a menu of loan sizes and interest rates wherein each loan makes zero profits. They prove the existence of a steady-state equilibrium and characterize the circumstances under which a household defaults on its loans. They show that their model accounts for the main statistics regarding bankruptcy and unsecured credit while matching key macroeconomic aggregates and the earnings and wealth distributions. They use this model to address the implications of a recent policy change that introduces a form of "means-testing" for households contemplating a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing. They find that this policy change yields large welfare gains.
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Revision forthcoming in Econometrica.

07-15 Spin-Offs and the Market for Ideas
by Satyajit Chatterjee and Esteban Rossi-Hansberg External Link
Superseded by Working Paper 08-26
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07-14 A Finite-Life Private-Information Theory of Unsecured Consumer Debt
by Satyajit Chatterjee, Dean Corbae, and José-Víctor Ríos-Rull

The authors present a theory of unsecured consumer debt that does not rely on utility costs of default or on enforcement mechanisms that arise in repeated-interaction settings. The theory is based on private information about a person's type and on a person's incentive to signal his type to entities other than creditors. Specifically, debtors signal their low-risk status to insurers by avoiding default in credit markets. The signal is credible because in equilibrium people who repay are more likely to be the low-risk type and so receive better insurance terms. The authors explore two different mechanisms through which repayment behavior in the credit market can be positively correlated with low-risk status in the insurance market. Their theory is motivated in part by some facts regarding the role of credit scores in consumer credit and auto insurance markets.
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07-13 A Comparison of Poverty Trends and Policy Impacts for Working Families Using Different Poverty Indexes
by Robert H. DeFina External Link

This study provides empirical evidence on recent trends in poverty among working families based on the headcount rate and a broader alternative that incorporates the headcount rate, the depth of poverty, and income inequality among the poor. Estimates reveal that the indexes produce significantly different trends. The headcount rate indicates a reduction in overall working poverty for the sample period, while the alternative index showed no statistically significant change. The same result was found for various population subgroups. Decompositions of the index changes show that tax changes contributed to lower values for both the headcount rate and the alternative index, largely due to recent expansions of the earned income tax credit. Changes in transfer payments added to measured poverty, mirroring the retrenchment of welfare and other transfer programs. Shifts in market-based income decreased both indexes.
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07-12/R Dynamics of Worker Flows and Vacancies: Evidence from the Sign Restriction Approach
by Shigeru Fujita

This paper establishes robust dynamic features of the worker reallocation process in the U.S. labor market. The author uses structural VARs with sign restrictions, which take the form of restricting the short-run negative relationship between vacancies and unemployment (i.e., Beveridge curve). Despite the "weakness" of these restrictions, they reveal a clear, unambiguous pattern that when unemployment increases and vacancies drop, (i) both the separation rate and gross separations rise quickly and remain persistently high, (ii) the job finding rate and vacancies drop in a hump-shaped manner, and (iii) gross hires respond little initially, but eventually rise. These results point to the importance of job loss in understanding U.S. labor market dynamics. This pattern also holds with respect to different kinds of shocks that induce the same Beveridge curve relationship. Given the robustness, these results should be taken seriously in the quantitative macro/labor literature. This paper also considers the "disaggregate model," which uses data disaggregated by six demographic groups and incorporates transitions into and out of the labor force. The author finds that the separation rate continues to play a dominant role among prime-age male workers, while, for other groups, changes in the job finding rate are more important.
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07-11 The Long and Large Decline in State Employment Growth Volatility
by Gerald Carlino, Robert DeFina External Link, and Keith Sill
Superseded by Working Paper 09-9
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07-10 Bankruptcy: Is It Enough to Forgive or Must We Also Forget?
by Ronel Elul and Piero Gottardi External Link

In many countries, lenders are not permitted to use information about past defaults after a specified period of time has elapsed. The authors model this provision and determine conditions under which it is optimal.

They develop a model in which entrepreneurs must repeatedly seek external funds to finance a sequence of risky projects under conditions of both adverse selection and moral hazard. They show that forgetting a default makes incentives worse, ex-ante, because it reduces the punishment for failure. However, following a default it is generally good to forget, because pooling riskier agents with safer ones makes exerting high effort to preserve their reputation more attractive.

The authors' key result is that if agents are sufficiently patient, and low effort is not too inefficient, then the optimal law would prescribe some amount of forgetting — that is, it would not permit lenders to fully utilize past information. The authors also show that such a law must be enforced by the government — no lender would willingly agree to forget. Finally, they also use their model to examine the policy debate that arose during the adoption of these rules.
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07-9 Competitive Effects of Basel II on U.S. Bank Credit Card Lending
by William W. Lang, Loretta J. Mester, and Todd A. Vermilyea

The authors analyze the potential competitive effects of the proposed Basel II capital regulations on U.S. bank credit card lending. They find that bank issuers operating under Basel II will face higher regulatory capital minimums than Basel I banks, with differences due to the way the two regulations treat reserves and gain-on-sale of securitized assets. During periods of normal economic conditions, this is not likely to have a competitive effect; however, during periods of substantial stress in credit card portfolios, Basel II banks could face a significant competitive disadvantage relative to Basel I banks and nonbank issuers.
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07-8 Mismeasured Personal Saving and the Permanent Income Hypothesis
by Leonard I. Nakamura and Tom Stark

Is it possible to forecast using poorly measured data? According to the permanent income hypothesis, a low personal saving rate should predict rising future income (Campbell, 1987). However, the U.S. personal saving rate is initially poorly measured and has been repeatedly revised upward in benchmark revisions. The authors use both conventional and real-time estimates of the personal saving rate in vector autoregressions to forecast real disposable income; using the level of the personal saving rate in real time would have almost invariably made forecasts worse, but first differences of the personal saving rate are predictive. They also test the lay hypothesis that a low personal saving rate has implications for consumption growth and find no evidence of forecasting ability.
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07-7 Matching Externalities and Inventive Productivity
by Robert M. Hunt

This paper generalizes and extends the labor market search and matching model of Berliant, Reed, and Wang (2006). In this model, the density of cities is determined endogenously, but the matching process becomes more efficient as density increases. As a result, workers become more selective in their matches, and this raises average productivity (the intensive margin). Despite being more selective, the search process is more rapid so that workers spend more time in productive matches (the extensive margin). The effect of an exogenous increase in land area on productivity depends on the sensitivity of the matching function and congestion costs to changes in density.
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07-6 Economics and the Design of Patent Systems
by Robert M. Hunt

The author uses intuition derived from several of his research papers to make three points. First, in the absence of a common law balancing test, application of uniform patentability criteria favors some industries over others. Policymakers must decide the optimal tradeoff across industries. Second, if patent rights are not closely related to the underlying inventions, more patenting may reduce R&D in industries that are both R&D and patent intensive. Third, for reasons largely unrelated to intellectual property, the U.S. private innovation system has become far more decentralized than it was a generation ago. It is reasonable to inquire whether a patent system that worked well in an era of more centralized innovation functions as well for the more decentralized environment of today.
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07-5 The Cyclicality of Worker Flows: New Evidence from the SIPP
by Shigeru Fujita, Christopher J. Nekarda, and Garey Ramey External Link

Drawing on CPS data, the authors show that total monthly job loss and hiring among U.S. workers, as well as job loss hazard rates, are strongly countercyclical, while job finding hazard rates are strongly procyclical. They also find that total job loss and job loss hazard rates lead the business cycle, while total hiring and job finding rates trail the cycle. In the current paper the authors use information from the Survey on Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to reevaluate these findings. SIPP data are used to construct new longitudinally consistent gross flow series for U.S. workers, covering 1983-2003. The results strongly validate the authors' findings, with two important exceptions: (1) total hiring leads the cycle in the SIPP data, and (2) the job loss rate is substantially more volatile than the job finding rate at business cycle frequencies.
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07-4 Capital and Macroeconomic Instability in a Discrete-Time Model with Forward-Looking Interest Rate Rules
by Kevin X. D. Huang and Qinglai Meng

The authors establish the necessary and sufficient conditions for local real determinacy in a discrete-time production economy with monopolistic competition and a quadratic price adjustment cost under forward-looking policy rules, for the case where capital is in exogenously fixed supply and the case with endogenous capital accumulation. Using these conditions, they show that (i) indeterminacy is more likely to occur with a greater share of payment to capital in value-added production cost; (ii) indeterminacy can be more or less likely to occur with constant capital than with variable capital; (iii) indeterminacy is more likely to occur when prices are modelled as jump variables than as predetermined variables; (iv) indeterminacy is less likely to occur with a greater degree of steady-state monopolistic distortions; and (v) indeterminacy is less likely to occur with a greater degree of price stickiness or with a higher steady-state inflation rate. In contrast to some existing research, the authors' analysis indicates that capital tends to lead to macroeconomic instability by affecting firms' pricing behavior in product markets rather than households' arbitrage activity in asset markets even under forward-looking policy rules.
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07-3 Overconfidence in Financial Markets and Consumption Over the Life Cycle
by Frank Caliendo and Kevin X. D. Huang

Overconfidence is a widely documented phenomenon. Empirical evidence reveals two types of overconfidence in financial markets: investors both overestimate the average rate of return to their assets and underestimate uncertainty associated with the return. This paper explores implications of overconfidence in financial markets for consumption over the life cycle. The authors obtain a closed-form solution to the time-inconsistent problem facing an overconfident investor/consumer who has a CRRA utility function. They use this solution to show that overestimation of the mean return gives rise to a hump in consumption during the work life if and only if the elasticity of intertemporal substitution in consumption is less than unit. They find that underestimation of uncertainty has little effect on the long-run average behavior of consumption over the work life. Their calibrated model produces a hump-shaped work-life consumption profile with both the age and the amplitude of peak consumption consistent with empirical observations.
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07-2 Reassessing the Shimer Facts
by Shigeru Fujita and Garey Ramey
Superseded by Working Paper 07-19
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07-1 Inflation and Interest Rates with Endogenous Market Segmentation
by Aubhik Khan and Julia Thomas External Link

The authors examine a monetary economy where households incur fixed transactions costs when exchanging bonds and money and, as a result, carry money balances in excess of current spending to limit the frequency of such trades. As only a fraction of households choose to actively trade bonds and money at any given time, the market is endogenously segmented. Moreover, because households in this model economy have the ability to alter the timing of their trading activities, the extent of market segmentation varies over time in response to real and nominal shocks. The authors find that this added flexibility can substantially reinforce both sluggishness in aggregate price adjustment and the persistence of liquidity effects in real and nominal interest rates relative to that seen in models with exogenously segmented markets.
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