Gender, Marriage, and Life Expectancy

November 29, 2016

By Margherita Borella, Mariacristina De Nardi and Fang Yang

Wages and life expectancy, as well as labor market outcomes, savings, and consumption, differ by gender and marital status. In this paper we compare the aggregate implications of two dynamic structural models. The first model is a standard, quantitative, life-cycle economy, in which people are only heterogenous by age and realized earnings shocks, and is calibrated using data on men, as typically done. The second model is one in which people are also heterogeneous by gender, marital status, wages, and life expectancy, and is calibrated using data for married and single men and women. We show that the standard life-cycle economy misses important aspects of aggregate savings, labor supply, earnings, and consumption. In contrast, the model with richer heterogeneity by gender, marital status, wage, and life expectancy matches the observed data well. We also show that the effects of changing life expectancy and the gender wage gap depend on marital status and gender, and that it is essential to not only model couples, but also the labor supply response of both men and women in a couple.

This seems like a fairly obvious point, and a point that needs to be made and is supported here by significant quantities.

Financial Regulation in a Quantitative Model of the Modern Banking System

November 29, 2016

By Tim Landvoigt and Juliane Begenau

This paper builds a quantitative general equilibrium model with commercial banks and shadow banks to study the unintended consequences of capital requirements. In particular, we investigate how the shadow banking system responds to capital regulation changes for traditional banks. A key feature of our model are defaultable bank liabilities that provide liquidity services to households. In case of default, commercial bank debt is fully insured and thus provides full liquidity services. In contrast, shadow banks are only randomly bailed out. Thus, shadow banks’ liquidity services also depend on their default rate. Commercial banks are subject to a capital requirement. Tightening the requirement from the status quo, leads households to substitute shadow bank liquidity for commercial bank liquidity and therefore to more shadow banking activity in the economy. But this relationship is non-monotonic due to an endogenous leverage constraint on shadow banks that limits their ability to deliver liquidity services. The basic trade-off of a higher requirement is between bank liquidity provision and stability. Calibrating the model to data from the Financial Accounts of the U.S., the optimal capital requirement is around 20%.

The more you regulate the banks, the more assets will leak into the shadow banking system that is muc more difficult to regulate. It is therefore impossible to have a completely safe banking system and there is an optimum level of regulation, which may actually depend on a lot of things, including some that vary with economic conditions. It is going to be difficult to find regulators and politicians with that kind of flexibility.

Inequality and Aggregate Demand

November 22, 2016

By Matthew Rognlie and Adrien Auclert

We explore the quantitative effects of transitory and persistent increases in income inequality on equilibrium interest rates and output. Our starting point is a Bewley-Huggett-Aiyagari model featuring rich heterogeneity and earnings dynamics as well as downward nominal wage rigidities. A temporary rise in inequality, if not accommodated by monetary policy, has an immediate effect on output that can be quantified using the empirical covariance between income and marginal propensities to consume. A permanent rise in inequality can lead to a permanent Keynesian recession, which is not fully offset by monetary policy due to a lower bound on interest rates. We show that the magnitude of the real interest rate fall and the severity of the steady-state slump can be approximated by simple formulas involving quantifiable elasticities and shares, together with two parameters that summarize the effect of idiosyncratic uncertainty and real interest rates on aggregate savings. For plausible parametrizations the rise in inequality can push the economy into a liquidity trap and create a deep recession. Capital investment and deficit-financed fiscal policy mitigate the fall in real interest rates and the severity of the slump.

The approach here is the reverse of what is usually done in such model: shock the heterogeneity to see what it implies for aggregates. The next step would be to identify what the origin of the shock is and then let the aggregates feed back to heterogeneity. General equilibrium in a sense. In any case, this one more testimony that heterogeneity and distribution matters bigly.

Confidence Cycles and Liquidity Hoarding

November 16, 2016

By Volha Audzei

Market confidence has proved to be an important factor during past crises. However, many existing general equilibrium models do not account for agents’ expectations, market volatility, or overly pessimistic investor forecasts. In this paper, we incorporate a model of the interbank market into a DSGE model, with the interbank market rate and the volume of lending depending on market confidence and the perception of counterparty risk. In our model, a credit crunch occurs if the perception of counterparty risk increases. Our results suggest that changes in market confidence can generate credit crunches and contribute to the depth of recessions. We then conduct an exercise to mimic some central bank policies: targeted and untargeted liquidity provision, and reduction of the policy rate. Our results indicate that policy actions have a limited effect on the supply of credit if they fail to influence agents’ expectations. Interestingly, a policy of a low policy rate worsens recessions due to its negative impact on banks’ revenues. Liquidity provision stimulates credit slightly, but its efficiency is undermined by liquidity hoarding.

One thing that the last financial crisis taught us is that the interbank market matters quite a bit. This paper takes a serious look at it, and in particular factors in heterogeneity in banks’ beliefs. My slightly related previous research (with the same conclusion about low interest rates and liquidity hoarding, but without the interbank market) showed me that heterogeneity matters a lot for credit markets. This paper confirms that.

The Heterogeneous Effects of Government Spending: It’s All About Taxes

November 14, 2016

By Axelle Ferrière and Gaston Navarro

Empirical work suggests that government spending generates large expansions of output and consumption. Most representative-agent models predict a moderate expansion of output, and a crowding-out of consumption. We reconcile these findings by taking into account the distribution of taxes. Using US data from 1913 to 2012, we provide evidence that government spending induces larger expansions in output and consumption when financed with more progressive taxes. We then develop a model with heterogeneous households and idiosyncratic risk, to show that a rise in government spending can be expansionary, both for output and consumption, only if financed with more progressive labor taxes. Key to our results is the model endogenous heterogeneity in households’ marginal propensities to consume and labor supply elasticities. In this respect, the distributional impact of fiscal policy is central to its aggregate effects.

Distribution matters big time when income taxes are more progressive. It makes total sense that the Ricardian Equivalence when you depart from linearity, but this paper shows it is significant.

Optimal monetary policy with heterogeneous agents

November 10, 2016

By Galo Nuño and Carlos Thomas

Incomplete markets models with heterogeneous agents are increasingly used for policy analysis. We propose a novel methodology for solving fully dynamic optimal policy problems in models of this kind, both under discretion and commitment. We illustrate our methodology by studying optimal monetary policy in an incomplete-markets model with non-contingent nominal assets and costly inflation. Under discretion, an inflationary bias arises from the central bank’s attempt to redistribute wealth towards debtor households, which have a higher marginal utility of net wealth. Under commitment, this inflationary force is countered over time by the incentive to prevent expectations of future inflation from being priced into new bond issuances; under certain conditions, long run inflation is zero as both effects cancel out asymptotically. For a plausible calibration, we find that the optimal commitment features first-order initial inflation followed by a gradual decline towards its (near zero) long-run value. Welfare losses from discretionary policy are first-order in magnitude, affecting both debtors and creditors.

This is an interesting paper for two reasons. First, it provides an new solution method. Second, the application yields substantial welfare costs for inflation. It would be really useful to see someone replicate this with another method to verify that the result is not driven by the method.