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Working Papers 2011: Abstracts

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11-48: Optimal Labor-Market Policy in Recessions, by Philip Jung and Keith Kuester

The authors examine the optimal labor market-policy mix over the business cycle. In a search and matching model with risk-averse workers, endogenous hiring and separation, and unobservable search effort they first show how to decentralize the constrained-efficient allocation. This can be achieved by a combination of a production tax and three labor-market policy instruments, namely, a vacancy subsidy, a layoff tax and unemployment benefits. The authors derive analytical expressions for the optimal setting of each of these for the steady state and for the business cycle. Their propositions suggest that hiring subsidies, layoff taxes and the replacement rate of unemployment insurance should all rise in recessions. The authors find this confirmed in a calibration targeted to the U.S. economy.
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11-47: Supply-Side Policies and the Zero Lower Bound, by Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Pablo Guerrón-Quintana, Juan F. Rubio-Ramírez

This paper examines how supply-side policies may play a role in fighting a low aggregate demand that traps an economy at the zero lower bound (ZLB) of nominal interest rates. Future increases in productivity or reductions in mark-ups triggered by supply-side policies generate a wealth effect that pulls current consumption and output up. Since the economy is at the ZLB, increases in the interest rates do not undo this wealth effect, as we will have in the case outside the ZLB. The authors illustrate this mechanism with a simple two-period New Keynesian model. They discuss possible objections to this set of policies and the relation of supply-side policies with more conventional monetary and fiscal policies.
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11-46: Large Capital Infusions, Investor Reactions, and the Return and Risk Performance of Financial Institutions over the Business Cycle and Recent Financial Crisis, by Elyas Elyasiani, Loretta J. Mester, and Michael S. Pagano

Superseded by Working Paper 13-23 PDF Icon (549 KB, 44 pages)

11-45: On the Network Topology of Variance Decompositions: Measuring the Connectedness of Financial Firms, by Francis X. Diebold and Kamil Yilmaz

The authors propose several connectedness measures built from pieces of variance decompositions, and they argue that they provide natural and insightful measures of connectedness among financial asset returns and volatilities. The authors also show that variance decompositions define weighted, directed networks, so that their connectedness measures are intimately-related to key measures of connectedness used in the network literature. Building on these insights, the authors track both average and daily time-varying connectedness of major U.S. financial institutions' stock return volatilities in recent years, including during the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
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11-44/R: Declining Labor Turnover and Turbulence, by Shigeru Fujita

Superseded by Working Paper 15-29 PDF Icon (809 KB, 44 pages)

11-43: Sovereign Risk and the Effects of Fiscal Retrenchment in Deep Recessions, by Giancarlo Corsetti, Keith Kuester, André Meier, and Gernot J. Müller

The authors analyze the effects of government spending cuts on economic activity in an environment of severe fiscal strain, as reflected by a sizeable risk premium on government debt. Specifically, they consider a "sovereign risk channel," through which sovereign default risk spills over to the rest of the economy, raising funding costs in the private sector. The authors' analysis is based on a variant of the model suggested by Cúrdia and Woodford (2009). It allows for costly financial intermediation and inter-household borrowing and lending in equilibrium, but maintains the tractability of the baseline New Keynesian model. They show that, if monetary policy is constrained in offsetting the effect of higher sovereign risk on private-sector borrowing conditions, the sovereign risk channel exacerbates indeterminacy problems: private-sector beliefs of a weakening economy can become self-fulfilling. Under these conditions, fiscal retrenchment can limit the risk of macroeconomic instability. In addition, if fiscal strain is very severe and monetary policy is constrained for an extended period, fiscal retrenchment may actually stimulate economic activity.
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11-42: The Agglomeration of R&D Labs, by Gerald A. Carlino, Jake K. Carr, Robert M. Hunt, and Tony E. Smith

Superseded by Working Paper 12-22 PDF Icon (7.12 MB, 45 pages)

11-41: Improving GDP Measurement: A Forecast Combination Perspective, by S. Boragan Aruoba, Francis X. Diebold, Jeremy Nalewaik, Frank Schorfheide, and Dongho Song

Two often-divergent U.S. GDP estimates are available, a widely-used expenditure-side version GDPE, and a much less widely-used income-side version GDI . The authors propose and explore a "forecast combination" approach to combining them. They then put the theory to work, producing a superior combined estimate of GDP growth for the U.S., GDPC. The authors compare GDPC to GDPE and GDPI , with particular attention to behavior over the business cycle. They discuss several variations and extensions.
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11-40: Do Phillips Curves Conditionally Help to Forecast Inflation?, by Michael Dotsey, Shigeru Fujita, and Tom Stark

Superseded by Working Paper 17-26.
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11-39: Rising Indebtedness and Temptation: A Welfare Analysis, by Makoto Nakajima

Is the observed large increase in consumer indebtedness since 1970 beneficial for U.S. consumers? This paper quantitatively investigates the macroeconomic and welfare implications of relaxing borrowing constraints using a model with preferences featuring temptation and self-control. The model can capture two contrasting views: the positive view, which links increased indebtedness to financial innovation and thus better consumption smoothing, and the negative view, which is associated with consumers' over-borrowing. The author finds that the latter is sizable: the calibrated model implies a social welfare loss equivalent to a 0.4 percent decrease in per-period consumption from the relaxed borrowing constraint consistent with the observed increase in indebtedness. The welfare implication is strikingly different from the standard model without temptation, which implies a welfare gain of 0.7 percent, even though the two models are observationally similar. Naturally, the optimal level of the borrowing limit is significantly tighter according to the temptation model, as a tighter borrowing limit helps consumers by preventing over-borrowing.
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11-38: Portage and Path Dependence, by Hoyt Bleakley and Jeffrey Lin

The authors examine portage sites in the U.S. South, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest, including those on the fall line, a geomorphological feature in the southeastern U.S. marking the final rapids on rivers before the ocean. Historically, waterborne transport of goods required portage around the falls at these points, while some falls provided water power during early industrialization. These factors attracted commerce and manufacturing. Although these original advantages have long since been made obsolete, the authors document the continuing importance of these portage sites over time. They interpret these results as path dependence and contrast explanations based on sunk costs interacting with decreasing versus increasing returns to scale.
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11-37: How Much Did Banks Pay to Become Too-Big-to-Fail and to Become Systemically Important?, by Elijah Brewer III and Julapa Jagtiani

This paper estimates the value of the too-big-to-fail (TBTF) subsidy. Using data from the merger boom of 1991-2004, the authors find that banking organizations were willing to pay an added premium for mergers that would put them over the asset sizes that are commonly viewed as the thresholds for being TBTF. They estimate at least $15 billion in added premiums for the eight merger deals that brought the organizations to over $100 billion in assets. In addition, the authors find that both the stock and bond markets reacted positively to these TBTF merger deals. Their estimated TBTF subsidy is large enough to create serious concern, particularly since the recently assisted mergers have effectively allowed for TBTF banking organizations to become even bigger and for nonbanks to become part of TBTF banking organizations, thus extending the TBTF subsidy beyond banking.
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11-36: Trading Dynamics in Decentralized Markets with Adverse Selection, by Braz Camargo and Benjamin Lester

The authors study a dynamic, decentralized lemons market with one-time entry and characterize its set of non-stationary equilibria. This framework offers a theory of how a market suffering from adverse selection recovers over time endogenously; given an initial fraction of lemons, the model provides sharp predictions about how prices and the composition of assets evolve over time. Comparing economies in which the initial fraction of lemons varies, the authors study the relationship between the severity of the lemons problem and market liquidity. They use this framework to understand how asymmetric information contributed to the breakdown in trade of asset-backed securities during the recent financial crisis, and to evaluate the efficacy of one policy that was implemented in attempt to restore liquidity.
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11-35: Dealing with Consumer Default: Bankruptcy vs. Garnishment, by Satyajit Chatterjee and Grey Gordon

What are the positive and normative implications of eliminating bankruptcy protection for indebted individuals? Without bankruptcy protection, creditors can collect on defaulted debt to the extent permitted by wage garnishment laws. The elimination lowers the default premium on unsecured debt and permits low-net-worth individuals suffering bad earnings shocks to smooth consumption by borrowing. There is a large increase in consumer debt financed essentially by super-wealthy individuals, a modest drop in capital per worker, and a higher frequency of consumer default. Average welfare rises by 1 percent of consumption in perpetuity, with about 90 percent of households favoring the change.
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11-34: Can Oil Prices Forecast Exchange Rates?, by Domenico Ferraro, Ken Rogoff, and Barbara Rossi

This paper investigates whether oil prices have a reliable and stable out-of-sample relationship with the Canadian/U.S. dollar nominal exchange rate. Despite state-of-the-art methodologies, the authors find little systematic relation between oil prices and the exchange rate at the monthly and quarterly frequencies. In contrast, the main contribution is to show the existence of a very short-term relationship at the daily frequency, which is rather robust and holds no matter whether the authors use contemporaneous (realized) or lagged oil prices in their regression. However, in the latter case the predictive ability is ephemeral, mostly appearing after instabilities have been appropriately taken into account.
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11-33: Maturity, Indebtedness, and Default Risk, by Satyajit Chatterjee and Burcu Eyigungor

In this paper, the authors advance the theory and computation of Eaton-Gersovitz style models of sovereign debt by incorporating long-term debt and proving the existence of an equilibrium price function with the property that the interest rate on debt is increasing in the amount borrowed and implementing a novel method of computing the equilibrium accurately. Using Argentina as a test case, they show that incorporating long-term debt allows the model to match the average external debt-to-output ratio, average spread on external debt, the standard deviation of spreads and simultaneously improve upon the model's ability to account for Argentina's other cyclical facts.
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11-32/R: Fiscal Volatility Shocks and Economic Activity, by Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Pablo Guerron-Quintana, Keith Kuester, and Juan Rubio-Ramirez

The authors study the effects of changes in uncertainty about future fiscal policy on aggregate economic activity. In light of large fiscal deficits and high public debt levels in the U.S., a fiscal consolidation seems inevitable. However, there is notable uncertainty about the policy mix and timing of such a budgetary adjustment. To evaluate the consequences of the increased uncertainty, the authors first estimate tax and spending processes for the U.S. that allow for timevarying volatility. They then feed these processes into an otherwise standard New Keynesian business cycle model calibrated to the U.S. economy. The authors find that fiscal volatility shocks can have a sizable adverse effect on economic activity.
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11-31: Out-of-Sample Forecast Tests Robust to the Choice of Window Size, by Barbara Rossi and Atsushi Inoue

This paper proposes new methodologies for evaluating out-of-sample forecasting performance that are robust to the choice of the estimation window size. The methodologies involve evaluating the predictive ability of forecasting models over a wide range of window sizes. The authors show that the tests proposed in the literature may lack the power to detect predictive ability and might be subject to data snooping across different window sizes if used repeatedly. An empirical application shows the usefulness of the methodologies for evaluating exchange rate models' forecasting ability.
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11-30/R: Collateral Damage: Sizing and Assessing the Subprime CDO Crisis, by Larry Cordell, Yilin Huang, and Meredith Williams

This paper conducts an in-depth analysis of structured finance asset-backed securities collateralized debt obligations (SF ABS CDOs), the subset of CDOs that traded on the ABS CDO desks at the major investment banks and were a major contributor to the August 2007 financial panic. The authors identify these CDOs with data from Intex ©. They estimate that 727 publicly traded SF ABS CDOs were issued between 1999 and 2007, totaling $641 billion. The authors describe how and why multi-sector CDOs became subprime CDOs and show why they were so susceptible to catastrophic loss. They then track the flows of subprime bonds into CDOs to document the enormous cross-referencing of subprime BBB bonds and credit default swaps (CDSs) into CDOs. The authors also show that lower rated tranches of CDOs were not sold and were largely recycled into CDO2s and other CDOs. They estimate that total write-downs on SF ABS CDOs will be $420 billion, 65 percent of the original issuance balance. The authors then analyze the determinants of expected losses on the deals and AAA bonds and examine the performance of dealers and rating agencies. Finally, they discuss the implications of their findings and the many areas for future work.
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11-29: On the Implementation of Markov-Perfect Monetary Policy, by Michael Dotsey and Andreas Hornstein

The literature on optimal monetary policy in New Keynesian models under both commitment and discretion usually solves for the optimal allocations that are consistent with a rational expectations market equilibrium, but it does not study whether the policy can be implemented given the available policy instruments. Recently, King and Wolman (2004) have provided an example for which a time-consistent policy cannot be implemented through the control of nominal money balances. In particular, they find that equilibria are not unique under a money stock regime and they attribute the non-uniqueness to strategic complementarities in the price-setting process. The authors clarify how the choice of monetary policy instrument contributes to the emergence of strategic complementarities in the King and Wolman (2004) example. In particular, they show that for an alternative monetary policy instrument, namely, the nominal interest rate, there exists a unique Markov-perfect equilibrium. The authors also discuss how a time-consistent planner can implement the optimal allocation by simply announcing his policy rule in a decentralized setting.
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11-28: Optimal Monetary Policy in a Model of Money and Credit, by Pedro Gomis-Porqueras and Daniel R. Sanches

The authors investigate the extent to which monetary policy can enhance the functioning of the private credit system. Specifically, they characterize the optimal return on money in the presence of credit arrangements. There is a dual role for credit: It allows buyers to trade without fiat money and also permits them to borrow against future income. However, not all traders have access to credit. As a result, there is a social role for fiat money because it allows agents to self-insure against the risk of not being able to use credit in some transactions. The authors consider a (nonlinear) monetary mechanism that is designed to enhance the credit system. An active monetary policy is sufficient for relaxing credit constraints. Finally, they characterize the optimal monetary policy and show that it necessarily entails a positive inflation rate, which is required to induce cooperation in the credit system.
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11-27: Who Said Large Banks Don't Experience Scale Economies? Evidence from a Risk-Return-Driven Cost Function, by Joseph P. Hughes and Loretta J. Mester

Earlier studies found little evidence of scale economies at large banks; later studies using data from the 1990s uncovered such evidence, providing a rationale for very large banks seen worldwide.

Using more recent data, the authors estimate scale economies using two production models. The standard risk-neutral model finds little evidence of scale economies. The model using more general risk preferences and endogenous risk-taking finds large scale economies. The authors show that these economies are not driven by too-big-to-fail considerations. They evaluate the cost implications of breaking up the largest banks into banks of smaller size.
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11-26: A Quantitative Analysis of the US Housing and Mortgage Markets and the Foreclosure Crisis, by Satyajit Chatterjee and Burcu Eyigungor

Superseded by Working Paper 15-13. PDF Icon

11-25: Real-Time Data and Fiscal Policy Analysis: A Survey of the Literature, by Jacopo Cimadomo

This paper surveys the empirical research on fiscal policy analysis based on real-time data. This literature can be broadly divided in three groups that focus on: (1) the statistical properties of revisions in fiscal data; (2) the political and institutional determinants of fiscal data revisions and of one-year-ahead projection errors by governments and (3) the reaction of fiscal policies to the business cycle. It emerges that, first, fiscal data revisions are large and initial releases are biased estimates of final values. Second, the presence of strong fiscal rules and institutions leads to relatively more accurate releases of fiscal data and small deviations of fiscal outcomes from government plans. Third, the cyclical stance of fiscal policies is estimated to be more ‘counter-cyclical’ when real-time data are used instead of ex-post data. Finally, more work is needed for the development of real-time datasets for fiscal policy analysis. In particular, a comprehensive real-time dataset including fiscal variables for industrialized (and possibly developing) countries, published and maintained by central banks or other institutions, is still missing.
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11-24: Core Measures of Inflation as Predictors of Total Inflation, by Theodore M. Crone, N. Neil K. Khettry, Loretta J. Mester, and Jason A. Novak

Policymakers tend to focus on core inflation measures because they are thought to be better predictors of total inflation over time horizons of import to policymakers. The authors find little support for this assumption. While some measures of core inflation are less volatile than total inflation, core inflation is not necessarily the best predictor of total inflation. The relative forecasting performance of models using core inflation and those using only total inflation depends on the inflation measure and time horizon of the forecast. Unlike previous studies, the authors provide a measure of the statistical significance of the difference in forecast errors. Supersedes Working Paper 08-9.
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11-23: The Dynamics of Public Investment Under Persistent Electoral Advantage by Marina Azzimonti

This paper studies the effects of asymmetries in re-election probabilities across parties on public policy and its subsequent propagation to the economy. The struggle between opposing groups — that disagree on the composition of public consumption — results in governments being endogenously short-sighted: Systematic under investment in infrastructure and overspending on public goods arise, as resources are more valuable when in power. Because the party enjoying an electoral advantage is relatively less short-sighted, it devotes a larger proportion of government revenues to productive public investment. Political turnover, together with asymmetric policy choices, induces economic fluctuations in an otherwise deterministic environment. The author characterizes the long-run distribution of capital and shows that output increases on average with political advantage, despite the fact that the size of the government expands as a percentage of GDP. Volatility, on the other hand, is non-monotonic in political power and is an additional source of inefficiency.
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11-22: The Trust Preferred CDO Market: From Start to (Expected) Finish by Larry Cordell, Michael Hopkins, and Yilin Huang

This paper investigates the development, issuance, structuring, and expected performance of the trust preferred securities collateralized debt obligation (TruPS CDO) market. Developed as a way to provide capital markets access to smaller banks, thrifts, insurance companies, and real estate investment trusts (REITs) by pooling the issuance of TruPS into marketable CDOs, the market grew to $60 billion of issuance from its inception in 2000 through its abrupt halt in 2007. As evidenced by rating agency downgrades, current performance, and estimates from the authors' own model, TruPS CDOs are likely to perform poorly. Using data and valuation software from the leading provider of such information, they estimate that large numbers of the subordinated bonds and some senior bonds will be either fully or partially written down, even if no further defaults occur going forward. The primary reason for these losses is that the underlying collateral of TruPS CDOs is small, unrated banks whose primary asset is commercial real estate (CRE). During their years of greatest issuance from 2003 to 2007, the booming real estate market and record low number of bank failures masked the underlying risks that are now manifest. Another reason for the poor performance of bank TruPS CDOs is that smaller banks became a primary investor in the mezzanine tranches of bank TruPS CDOs, something that is also complicating regulators' resolutions of failed banks. To understand how this came about, the authors explore in detail the symbiotic relationship between dealers and rating agencies and how they modeled and sold TruPS CDOs. In their concluding comments, the authors provide several lessons learned for policymakers, regulators, and market participants.
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11-21: Partisan Cycles and the Consumption Volatility Puzzle by Marina Azzimonti and Matthew Talbert

Standard real business cycle theory predicts that consumption should be smoother than output, as observed in developed countries. In emerging economies, however, consumption is more volatile than income. In this paper the authors provide a novel explanation of this phenomenon, the ‘consumption volatility puzzle,’ based on political frictions. They develop a dynamic stochastic political economy model where parties that disagree on the size of government (right-wing and left-wing) alternate in power and face aggregate uncertainty. While productivity shocks affect only consumption through responses to output, political shocks (switches in political ideology) change the composition between private and public consumption for a given output size via changes in the level of taxes. Since emerging economies are characterized by less stable governments and more polarized societies, the effects of political shocks are more pronounced. For a reasonable set of parameters the authors confirm the empirical relationship between political polarization and the ratio of consumption volatility to output volatility across countries.
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11-20: Inference for VARs Identified with Sign Restrictions by Hyungsik Roger Moon, Frank Schorfheide, Eleonora Granziera, and Mihye Lee

There is a fast growing literature that partially identifies structural vector autoregressions (SVARs) by imposing sign restrictions on the responses of a subset of the endogenous variables to a particular structural shock (sign-restricted SVARs). To date, the methods that have been used are only justified from a Bayesian perspective. This paper develops methods of constructing error bands for impulse response functions of sign-restricted SVARs that are valid from a frequentist perspective. The authors also provide a comparison of frequentist and Bayesian error bands in the context of an empirical application — the former can be twice as wide as the latter.
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11-19/R: Establishment Heterogeneity, Exporter Dynamics, and the Effects of Trade Liberalization by George Alessandria and Horag Choi

The authors study the effects of tariffs in a dynamic variation of the Melitz (2003) model, a monopolistically competitive model with heterogeneous establishments and fixed costs of exporting. With costs of starting to export that are substantially larger than the costs of continuing to export, the model matches both the size distribution of exporters and annual transition in and out of exporting of US manufacturers. The tariff equivalent of these fixed costs is 30 percentage points. The calibrated model is used to estimate the effect of reducing tariffs on welfare, trade, and export participation. The authors find sizeable gains to moving to free trade of 1.03 percent of steady state consumption. Along the transition, economic activity overshoots its steady state so that steady state changes in consumption understate the welfare gain to trade reform. Models that abstract from exporter dynamics generate smaller gains to trade and very different aggregate transition dynamics.
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11-18: Private Equity Premium in a General Equilibrium Model of Uninsurable Investment Risk by Francisco Covas External Link and Shigeru Fujita

This paper studies the quantitative properties of a general equilibrium model where a continuum of heterogeneous entrepreneurs are subject to aggregate as well as idiosyncratic risks in the presence of a borrowing constraint. The calibrated model matches the highly skewed wealth and income distributions of entrepreneurs. The authors provide an accurate solution to the model despite the significant nonlinearities that are absent in the economy with uninsurable labor income risk. The model is capable of generating the average private equity premium of roughly 3 percent and a low risk-free rate. The model also produces procyclicality of the risk-free rate and countercyclicality of the average private equity premium. The countercyclicality of the average equity premium is largely driven by tightening (loosening) of financing constraints during recessions (booms).
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11-17: Limited and Varying Consumer Attention: Evidence from Shocks to the Salience of Bank Overdraft Fees by Victor Stango and Jonathan Zinman

The authors explore dynamics of limited attention in the $35 billion market for checking overdrafts, using survey content as shocks to the salience of overdraft fees. Conditional on selection into surveys, individuals who face overdraft-related questions are less likely to incur a fee in the survey month. Taking multiple overdraft surveys builds a "stock" of attention that reduces overdrafts for up to two years. The effects are significant among consumers with lower education and financial literacy. Consumers avoid overdrafts not by increasing balances but by making fewer debit transactions and cancelling automatic recurring withdrawals. The results raise new questions about consumer financial protection policy.
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11-16: The Long and Large Decline in State Employment Growth Volatility by Gerald Carlino, Robert DeFina, and Keith Sill

This study documents a general decline in the volatility of employment growth during the period 1956 to 2002 and examines its possible sources. The authors use a panel design that exploits the considerable state-level variation in volatility during the period. The roles of monetary policy, oil prices, industrial employment shifts and a coincident index of business cycle variables are explored. Overall, these four variables taken together explain as much as 31 percent of the fluctuations in employment growth volatility. Individually, each of the four factors is found to have significantly contributed to fluctuations in employment growth volatility, although to differing degrees.
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11-15: Home Equity Withdrawal in Retirement by Makoto Nakajima and Irina A. Telyukova

The authors study empirically and theoretically the patterns of home equity withdrawal among retirees, using a model in which retirees are able to own or rent a home, save, and borrow against home equity, in the face of idiosyncratic risks concerning mortality, health, medical expenditures, and household size and observed house price changes. The estimated model is found to successfully replicate the patterns of homeownership and the saving/borrowing decisions of retirees. They use the estimated model for several counterfactual experiments. There are three main findings. First, the model predicts that a house price boom suppresses homeownership and increases borrowing, while a decline in house prices has the opposite effect. Second, the costs of home equity borrowing restrict the borrowing of retirees, and thus a reduction of such costs (e.g., lower costs of reverse mortgage loans) might significantly raise home equity borrowing. Third, there are two implications for the retirement saving puzzle. Although the cost of borrowing against equity in the house affects the borrowing of retirees, it does not affect total asset holding, implying that equity borrowing costs do not seem to offer a quantitatively significant contribution to resolving the retirement saving puzzle. On the other hand, the magnitude of the retirement saving puzzle might be exaggerated, because a sizable part of "retirement saving" is due to house price appreciation.
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11-14: Bankruptcy: Is It Enough to Forgive or Must We Also Forget? by Ronel Elul and Piero Gottardi

In many countries, lenders are restricted in their access to information about borrowers' past defaults. The authors study this provision in a model of repeated borrowing and lending with moral hazard and adverse selection. They analyze its effects on borrowers' incentives and access to credit, and identify conditions under which it is optimal. The authors argue that “forgetting” must be the outcome of a regulatory intervention by the government. Their model's predictions are consistent with the cross-country relationship between credit bureau regulations and the provision of credit, as well as the evidence on the impact of these regulations on borrowers' and lenders' behavior.
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11-13: Credit Cycle and Adverse Selection Effects in Consumer Credit Markets: Evidence from the HELOC Market by Paul Calem, Matthew Cannon, and Leonard Nakamura

The authors empirically study how the underlying riskiness of the pool of home equity line of credit originations is affected over the credit cycle. Drawing from the largest existing database of U.S. home equity lines of credit, they use county-level aggregates of these loans to estimate panel regressions on the characteristics of the borrowers and their loans, and competing risk hazard regressions on the outcomes of the loans. The authors show that when the expected unemployment risk of households increases, riskier households tend to borrow more. As a consequence, the pool of households that borrow on home equity lines of credit worsens along both observable and unobservable dimensions. This is an interesting example of a type of dynamic adverse selection that can worsen the risk characteristics of new lending, and suggests another avenue by which the precautionary demand for liquidity may affect borrowing.
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11-12/R: Subprime Mortgages and the Housing Bubble by Jan K. Brueckner, Paul S. Calem, and Leonard I. Nakamura

This paper explores the link between the house-price expectations of mortgage lenders and the extent of subprime lending. It argues that bubble conditions in the housing market are likely to spur subprime lending, with favorable price expectations easing the default concerns of lenders and thus increasing their willingness to extend loans to risky borrowers. Since the demand created by subprime lending feeds back onto house prices, such lending also helps to fuel an emerging housing bubble. These ideas are illustrated in a theoretical model, and tentative support is found in empirical work exploring the connection between price expectations and the extent of subprime lending.
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11-11: Is Technology-Enhanced Credit Counseling as Effective as In-Person Delivery? by John M. Barron and Michael E. Staten

This paper compares outcomes for borrowers who received face-to-face credit counseling with similarly situated consumers who opted for counseling via the telephone or Internet. Counseling outcomes are measured using consumer credit report attributes one or more years following the original counseling. The primary analysis uses data from a sample of 26,000 consumers who received credit counseling either in-person or via the telephone during 2003. A second sample of 12,000 clients counseled in 2005 and 2006 was provided by one of the agencies to examine Internet delivery. Technology-assisted delivery was found to generate outcomes no worse — and at some margins better — than face-to-face delivery of counseling services.
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11-10: UK World War I and Interwar Data for Business Cycle and Growth Analysis by James M. Nason and Shaun P. Vahey

This article contributes new time series for studying the UK economy during World War I and the interwar period. The time series are per capita hours worked and average capital income, labor income, and consumption tax rates. Uninterrupted time series of these variables are provided for an annual sample that runs from 1913 to 1938. The authors highlight the usefulness of these time series with several empirical applications. The per capita hours worked data are used in a growth accounting exercise to measure the contributions of capital, labor, and productivity to output growth. The average tax rates are employed in a Bayesian model averaging experiment to reevaluate the Benjamin and Kochin (1979) regression.
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11-9: Floats, Pegs and the Transmission of Fiscal Policy by Giancarlo Corsetti, Keith Kuester, and Gernot J. Muller

According to conventional wisdom, fiscal policy is more effective under a fixed than under a flexible exchange rate regime. In this paper the authors reconsider the transmission of shocks to government spending across these regimes within a standard New Keynesian model of a small open economy. Because of the stronger emphasis on intertemporal optimization, the New Keynesian framework requires a precise specification of fiscal and monetary policies, and their interaction, at both short and long horizons. The authors derive an analytical characterization of the transmission mechanism of expansionary spending policies under a peg, showing that the long-term real interest rate always rises in response to an increase in government spending if inflation rises initially. This response drives down private demand even though short-term real rates fall. As this need not be the case under floating exchange rates, the conventional wisdom needs to be qualified. Under plausible medium-term fiscal policies, government spending is not necessarily less expansionary under floating exchange rates.
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11-8/R: A Quantitative Analysis of Unemployment Benefit Extensions by Makoto Nakajima

Extensions of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits have been implemented in response to the Great Recession. This paper measures the effect of these extensions on the unemployment rate using a calibrated structural model featuring job search and consumption-saving decisions, skill depreciation, and UI eligibility. The ongoing UI benefit extensions are found to have raised the unemployment rate by 1.4 percentage points, which is about 30 percent of the observed increase since 2007. Moreover, the contribution of the UI benefit extensions to the elevated unemployment rate increased during 2009-2011; while the number of vacancies recovered, the successive extensions kept search intensity down.
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11-7: Estimation and Evaluation of DSGE Models: Progress and Challenges by Frank Schorfheide

Estimated dynamic stochastic equilibrium (DSGE) models are now widely used for empirical research in macroeconomics as well as for quantitative policy analysis and forecasting at central banks around the world. This paper reviews recent advances in the estimation and evaluation of DSGE models, discusses current challenges, and provides avenues for future research.
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11-6: U.S. Trade and Inventory Dynamics by George Alessandria, Joseph P. Kaboski, and Virgiliu Midrigan

The authors examine the source of the large fall and rebound in U.S. trade in the recent recession. While trade fell and rebounded more than expenditures or production of traded goods, they find that relative to the magnitude of the downturn, these trade fluctuations were in line with those in previous business cycle fluctuations. The authors argue that the high volatility of trade is attributed to more severe inventory management considerations of firms involved in international trade. They present empirical evidence for autos as well as at the aggregate level that the adjustment of inventory holdings helps explain these fluctuations in trade.
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11-5: Evaluating DSGE Model Forecasts of Comovements by Edward Herbst and Frank Schorfheide

This paper develops and applies tools to assess multivariate aspects of Bayesian Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model forecasts and their ability to predict comovements among key macroeconomic variables. The authors construct posterior predictive checks to evaluate the calibration of conditional and unconditional density forecasts, in addition to checks for root-mean-squared errors and event probabilities associated with these forecasts. The checks are implemented on a three-equation DSGE model as well as the Smets and Wouters (2007) model using real-time data. They find that the additional features incorporated into the Smets-Wouters model do not lead to a uniform improvement in the quality of density forecasts and prediction of comovements of output, inflation, and interest rates.
PDF Icon (633 KB, 45 pages)

11-4: Optimal Monetary Policy in a Model of Money and Credit by Pedro Gomis-Porqueras and Daniel R. Sanches

Superseded by Working Paper 11-28 PDF Icon (297 KB, 40 pages)

11-3: Strategic Default on First and Second Lien Mortgages During the Financial Crisis by Julapa Jagtiani and William W. Lang

Strategic default behavior suggests that the default process is not only a matter of inability to pay. Economic costs and benefits affect the incidence and timing of defaults. As with prior research, the authors find that people default strategically as their home value falls below the mortgage value (exercise the put option to default on their first mortgage). While some of these homeowners default on both first mortgages and second lien home equity lines, a large portion of the delinquent borrowers have kept their second lien current during the recent financial crisis. These second liens, which are current but stand behind a seriously delinquent first mortgage, are subject to a high risk of default. On the other hand, relatively few borrowers default on their second liens while remaining current on their first. This paper explores the strategic factors that may affect borrower decisions to default on first vs. second lien mortgages. The authors find that borrowers are more likely to remain current on their second lien if it is a home equity line of credit (HELOC) as compared to a closed-end home equity loan. Moreover, the size of the unused line of credit is an important factor. Interestingly, they find evidence that the various mortgage loss mitigation programs also play a role in providing incentives for homeowners to default on their first mortgages.
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11-2: A Dynamic Model of Unsecured Credit by Daniel R. Sanches

The author studies the terms of credit in a competitive market in which sellers (lenders) are willing to repeatedly finance the purchases of buyers (borrowers) by engaging in a credit relationship. The key frictions are: (i) the lender is unable to observe the borrower's ability to repay a loan; (ii) the borrower cannot commit to any long-term contract; (iii) it is costly for the lender to contact a borrower and to walk away from a contract; and (iv) transactions within each credit relationship are not publicly observable. The lender's optimal contract has two key properties: delayed settlement and debt forgiveness. Asymmetric information gives rise to the property of delayed settlement, which is a contingency in which the lender allows the borrower to defer the repayment of his loan in exchange for more favorable terms of credit within the relationship. This property, together with the borrowers' lack of commitment, gives rise to debt forgiveness. When the borrower's participation constraint binds, the lender needs to "forgive" part of the borrower's debt to keep him in the relationship. Finally, the author studies the impact of the changes in the initial cost of lending on the terms of credit.
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11-1: Lessons from the Latest Data on U.S. Productivity by Jan P.A.M. Jacobs External Link and Simon van Norden External Link

Productivity growth is carefully scrutinized by macroeconomists because it plays key roles in understanding private savings behaviour, the sources of macroeconomic shocks, the evolution of international competitiveness and the solvency of public pension systems, among other things. However, estimates of recent and expected productivity growth rates suffer from two potential problems: (i) recent estimates of growth trends are imprecise, and (ii) recently published data often undergo important revisions.

This paper documents the statistical (un)reliability of several measures of aggregate productivity growth in the U.S. by examining the extent to which they are revised over time. The authors also examine the extent to which such revisions contribute to errors in forecasts of U.S. productivity growth.

The authors find that data revisions typically cause appreciable changes in published estimates of productivity growth rates across a range of different productivity measures. Substantial revisions often occur years after the initial data release, which they argue contributes significantly to the overall uncertainty policymakers face.

This emphasizes the need for means of reducing the uncertainty facing policymakers and policies robust to uncertainty about current economic conditions.
PDF Icon (334 KB, 44 pages)