March 2015 call for papers

March 30, 2015

This month’s crop:

Labour Market Policy Evaluations Using Job Search and Matching Models, Mannheim, 8-9 June 2015.

Workshop on Political Economy, Stony Brook, 29-31 July 2015.

Canadian Macro Study Group, Montreal, 6-7 November 2015

Monetary policy implications for an oil-exporting economy of lower long-run international oil prices

March 29, 2015

By Franz Hamann, Jesús Bejarano and Diego Rodriguez

The sudden collapse of oil prices poses a challenge to inflation targeting central banks in oil exporting economies. This paper illustrates that challenge and conducts a quantitative assessment of the impact of permanent changes in oil prices in a small and open economy, in which oil represents an important fraction of its exports. We calibrate and estimate a variety of real and monetary dynamic stochastic general equilibrium models using Colombian historical data. We find that, in these artificial economies the macroeconomic effects can be large but vary depending on the structure of the economy. The main channels through which the shock passes to the economy come from the increased country risk premium, the real exchange rate depreciation, the sectoral reallocation of resources from nontradables to tradables and the sluggish adjustment of prices. Contrary to the conventional findings in the literature of the financial accelerator mechanism for single-good closed economies, in multiple-goods small open economies the financial accelerator does not play a significant role in magnifying macroeconomic fluctuations. The sectoral reallocation from nontradable to tradables diminishes the financial amplification mechanism.

This paper essentially argues that there is no reason for central banks in oil exporting countries to panic when the oil price drops. Let the real exchange rate do its magic, let the economy adjust, and target the inflation rate of non-tradables, and you will be fine. If the oil price remains very low, though, this is a different matter, but there is little a central bank can do in terms of long terms structural adjustment or major changes in permanent income anyway

What we don’t know doesn’t hurt us: rational inattention and the permanent income hypothesis in general equilibrium

March 26, 2015

By Jun Nie, Yulei Luo, Gaowang Wang and Eric Young

This paper derives the general equilibrium effects of rational inattention (or RI; Sims 2003,2010) in a model of incomplete income insurance (Huggett 1993, Wang 2003). We show that,under the assumption of CARA utility with Gaussian shocks, the permanent income hypothesis (PIH) arises in steady state equilibrium due to a balancing of precautionary savings and impatience. We then explore how RI affects the equilibrium joint dynamics of consumption, income and wealth, and find that elastic attention can make the model fit the data better. We finally show that the welfare costs of incomplete information are even smaller due to general equilibrium adjustments in interest rates.

What I take away from this paper is that general equilibrium effects are impressive. Here we have an environment where economic agents suffer from incomplete information, which should make that the permanent income hypothesis should fail, yet interest rates put them right back on track. One could say that it is not new that prices reveal information that markets participants do not know individually. However, the added difficulty here is that for the hypothesis to hold under complete information, said interest rate needs to align with time preferences. So it is not obvious that things still fall into place once you remove information.

Debt Constraints and Unemployment

March 23, 2015

By Patrick Kehoe, Virgiliu Midrigan and Elena Pastorino

In the Great Contraction, regions of the United States that experienced the largest change in household debt to income ratios also experienced the largest drops in output and employment. Such output drops not only occurred for firms that sell primarily to a local region but also for regional establishments of nation-wide firms that sell highly traded goods to both the rest of the United States and abroad. These patterns are difficult to reconcile with standard models of financial frictions in which tightened financial constraints mainly affect firms’ ability to borrow. We develop a Bewley-Huggett-Aiyagari incomplete market model with search and matching frictions of the Diamond-Mortenson-Pissarides type that generates such patterns. Critically, we allow for human capital acquisition by employed individuals, which generates realistic wage-tenure profiles. We show that with such upward sloping wage profiles, an unanticipated tightening of borrowing constraints leads consumers to value less the prospect of consumption when employed and, thus, to find employment relatively less attractive. In equilibrium, firms anticipate this behavior by consumers and consequently reduce the number of vacancies they post. The key result is that in equilibrium the tightening of borrowing constraints generates a path of increased unemployment that lingers, as consumers slowly adjust their asset positions given the tighter constraints, and seemingly `sticky’ wages, despite wages being continually renegotiated.

Interesting paper that offers an explanation why the drop in the labor force participation rate accelerated during the recession. The question is then whether those who are more responsive to these debt constraint effects are going to return to the labor market once the economy is back to normal. This is not obvious as the persistence of the effects likely very high if this channel is indeed as important as the authors argue.

Optimal Income Taxation with Asset Accumulation

March 5, 2015

By Árpád Ábrahám, Sebastian Koehne and Nicola Pavoni

Several frictions restrict the government’s ability to tax assets. First of all, it is very costly to monitor trades on international asset markets. Moreover, agents can resort to non-observable low-return assets such as cash, gold or foreign currencies if taxes on observable assets become too high. This paper shows that limitations in asset observability have important consequences for the taxation of labor income. Using a dynamic moral hazard model of social insurance, we find that optimal labor income taxes typically become less progressive when assets are imperfectly observed. We evaluate the effect quantitatively in a model calibrated to U.S. data.

This is timely research given the recent crackdown on tax havens around the world. But tax havens are always going to exist, from some distant island to the shoe box dug in the garden. The paper shows that the ability to hide asset from the view of the tax authority has a dramatic impact on the tax schedule and even on labor income tax. And this is before considering issues of tax competition which may amplify these pressures.