How Sticky Wages In Existing Jobs Can Affect Hiring

November 27, 2019

By Mark Bils, Yongsung Chang and Sun-Bin Kim

We consider a matching model of employment with flexible wages for new hires, but sticky wages within matches. Unlike most models of sticky wages, we allow effort to respond if wages are too high or too low. In the Mortensen-Pissarides model, employment is not affected by wage stickiness in existing matches. But it is in our model. If wages of matched workers are stuck too high, firms require more effort, lowering the value of additional labor and reducing hiring. We find that effort’s response can greatly increase wage inertia.

Wages are sticky once one is hired, but flexible for new hires. In principle, this should make aggregate wage rather flexible, as the margin is the new hires. The paper shows this is not true if effort on existing job matches can respond: this undoes the hiring margin and aggregate wages are sticky.

The vagaries of the sea: evidence on the real effects of money from maritime disasters in the Spanish Empire

November 22, 2019

By Adam Brzezinski, Yao Chen, Nuno Palma and Felix Ward

We exploit a recurring natural experiment to identify the effects of money supply shocks: maritime disasters in the Spanish Empire (1531-1810) that resulted in the loss of substantial amounts of monetary silver. A one percentage point reduction in the money growth rate caused a 1.3% drop in real output that persisted for several years. The empirical evidence highlights nominal rigidities and credit frictions as the primary monetary transmission channels. Our model of the Spanish economy confirms that each of these two channels explain about half of the initial output response, with the credit channel accounting for much of its persistence.

This is a very cool paper and as far as I know the first application of DSGE methods to pre-modern economic history. It also nicely highlights how relying on an exogenous and variable money supply is generally a bad idea.

On the Heterogeneous Welfare Gains and Losses from Trade

November 15, 2019

By Daniel Carroll and Sewon Hur

How are the gains and losses from trade distributed across individuals within a country? First, we document that tradable goods and services constitute a larger fraction of expenditures for low-wealth and low-income households. Second, we build a trade model with nonhomothetic preferences—to generate the documented relationship between tradable expenditure shares, income, and wealth—and uninsurable earnings risk—to generate heterogeneity in income and wealth. Third, we use the calibrated model to quantify the differential welfare gains and losses from trade along the income and wealth distribution. In a numerical exercise, we permanently reduce trade costs so as to generate a rise in import share of GDP commensurate with that seen in the data from 2001 to 2014. We find that households in the lowest wealth decile experience welfare gains over the transition, measured by permanent consumption equivalents, that are 57 percent larger than those in the highest wealth decile.

I sometimes hear the argument that the poor benefit the least (if not lose) from international trade: they face potentially lower wages and their job are more likely to be outsourced. Today, I learned that in fact they have a large benefit from their purchases, which are more likely to be tradables than for the general population. The paper argues that this makes them benefit overall more than anybody else from trade, including during a transition while trade is opened more.

The Cyclical Behavior of the Beveridge Curve in the Housing Market

November 5, 2019

By Miroslav Gabrovski and Victor Ortego-Marti

This paper develops a business cycle model of the housing market with search frictions and entry of both buyers and sellers. The housing market exhibits a well-established cyclical component, which features three stylized facts: prices move in the same direction as sales and the number of houses for sale, but opposite to the time it takes to sell a house. These stylized facts imply that in the data housing vacancies and the number of buyers are positively correlated, i.e. that the Beveridge Curve is upward sloping. A baseline search and matching model of the housing market is unable to match these stylized facts because it inherently generates a downward sloping Beveridge Curve. With free entry of both buyers and sellers, our model reproduces the positive correlation between prices, sales and vacancies, and matches the stylized facts qualitatively and quantitatively.

You often hear that the real estate market is different from other markets, even other asset markets, in fundamental ways. This paper shows that the sometimes peculiar dynamics of that market can be rationalized without heroic assumptions.

Cross-Sectional and Aggregate Labor Supply

October 30, 2019

By Yongsung Chang, Sun-Bin Kim, Kyooho Kwon and Richard Rogerson

Standard heterogeneous agent macro models that highlight idiosyncratic productivity shocks do not generate the near zero cross-sectional correlation between hours and wages found in the data. We ask whether matching this moment matters for business cycle properties of these models. To do this we explore two extensions of the model in Chang et al. (2019) that can match this empirical cross-section correlation. One of these departs from the assumption of balanced growth preferences. The other introduces an idiosyncratic shock to the opportunity cost of market work that is highly correlated with the shock to market productivity. While both extensions can match the empirical correlation, they have large and opposing effects on the cyclical volatility of the labor market. We conclude that the cross-sectional moment is important for business cycle analysis and that more work is needed to distinguish the potential mechanisms that can generate it.

The time series correlation between hours and wages has been a real struggle with representative agent business cycle model. Now it pops up again as a stumbling block with heterogeneous agents, this time as a cross-sectional correlation. I expect this to be the first of many papers on the subject.

Household Labor Search, Spousal Insurance, and Health Care Reform

October 28, 2019

By Hanming Fand and Andrew Shepherd

Health insurance in the United States for the working age population has traditionally been provided in the form of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESHI). If employers offered ESHI to their employees, they also typically extended coverage to their spouse and dependents. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) significantly alter the incentive for firms to offer insurance to the spouses of employees. We evaluate the long-run impact of the ACA on firms’ insurance offerings and on household outcomes by developing and estimating an equilibrium job search model in which multiple household members are searching for jobs. The distribution of job offers is determined endogenously, with compensation packages consisting of a wage and menu of insurance offerings (premiums and coverage) that workers select from. Using our estimated model we find that households’ valuation of employer-sponsored spousal health insurance is significantly reduced under the ACA, and with an “employee-only” health insurance contract emerging among low productivity firms. We relate these outcomes to the specific provisions in the ACA.

The health insurance system in the United States is very peculiar in the sense that it is provided by employers (or at least most of them) and includes coverage for spouses. The fact that health insurance is tied to one’s job does not look good for the insurance aspect of it, but it sure gives unlimited research potential for economists thanks to all the general equilibrium effects this entails in all sorts of markets. That paper is a nice example of this.

Inside Money, Investment, and Unconventional Monetary Policy

October 25, 2019

By Likas Altermatt

I develop a new monetarist model to analyze why an economy can fall into a liquidity trap, and what the effects of unconventional monetary policy measures such as helicopter money and negative interest rates are under these circumstances. I find that liquidity traps can be caused by a decrease in the bonds-to-money ratio, by a decrease in productivity of capital, or by an increase in demand for consumption. The model shows that, while conventional monetary policy cannot control inflation in a liquidity trap, unconventional monetary policies allow the monetary authority to regain control over the inflation rate, and that an increase in the bonds-to-money ratio is the only welfare-improving policy.

It is an intriguing insight that it all depends on the bonds-to-money ratio, and hence to improve its yield differential goes through negative interest rates on reserves if bond yields are too low.