Breaking the “Iron Rice Bowl” and Precautionary Savings: Evidence from Chinese State-Owned Enterprises Reform
2014-04 | With He, Huang, and Zhu | January 2014
We use China’s large-scale reform of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the late 1990s as a natural experiment to identify and quantify the importance of precautionary saving for wealth accumulation. Before the reform, SOE workers enjoyed the same job security as government employees. Since the reform, over 35 million SOE workers have been laid off, although government employees kept their “iron rice bowl.” The change in unemployment risk for SOE workers relative to that of government employees before and after the reform provides a clean identification of income uncertainty that helps us estimate the importance of precautionary saving. In our estimation, we correct a self-selection bias in occupational choice and disentangle the effects of uncertainty from pessimistic outlook. We obtain evidence that precautionary savings account for at least one-third of the wealth accumulation for SOE workers between 1995 and 2002
Monetary Policy Regimes and Capital Account Restrictions in a Small Open Economy
2013-33 | With Spiegel | October 2013
The recent financial crisis has led to large declines in world interest rates and surges of capital flows to emerging market economies. We examine the effectiveness and welfare implications of capital control policies in the face of such external shocks in a monetary DSGE model of a small open economy. We consider both optimal, time-varying restrictions on capital inflows and a simple capital account restriction, such as a constant tax on foreign debt holdings. We then compare the effectiveness of such capital account restrictions under alternative monetary regimes. We find that the optimal time-varying capital control policy is very effective in mitigating foreign interest rate shocks, but less effective for insulating the economy from export demand shocks; in the presence of export demand shocks, an exchange-rate stabilizing monetary policy regime can enhance macroeconomic stability and improve welfare. Under a simple and more practical capital control policy, a monetary policy regime that places larger weight on inflation fluctuations leads to additional gains in macroeconomic stability, although an exchange-rate stabilizing regime leads to even greater gains. Our findings suggest that, with either type of capital control policies, stabilizing the real exchange rate is a robust and effective monetary policy to help weather external shocks.
Temptation and Self-Control: Some Evidence and Applications
2013-23 | With Huang and Zhu | August 2013
This paper studies the empirical relevance of temptation and self-control using household-level data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. We construct an infinite-horizon consumption-savings model that allows, but does not require, temptation and self-control in preferences. In the presence of temptation, a wealth-consumption ratio, in addition to consumption growth, becomes a determinant of the asset-pricing kernel, and the importance of this additional pricing factor depends on the strength of temptation. To identify the presence of temptation, we exploit an implication of the theory that a more tempted individual should be more likely to hold commitment assets such as IRA or 401(k) accounts. Our estimation provides empirical support for temptation preferences. Based on our estimates, we explore some quantitative implications of this class of preferences for capital accumulation in a neoclassical growth model and the welfare cost of the business cycle.
Land Prices and Unemployment
2013-22 | With Miao and Zha | August 2013
We integrate the housing market and the labor market in a dynamic general equilibrium model with credit and search frictions. The model is confronted with the U.S. macroeconomic time series. Our estimated model can account for two prominent facts observed in the data. First, the land price and the unemployment rate tend to move in opposite directions over the business cycle. Second, a shock that moves the land price is capable of generating large volatility in unemployment. Our estimation indicates that a 10 percent drop in the land price leads to a 0.34 percentage point increase of the unemployment rate (relative to its steady state).
Capital Controls and Optimal Chinese Monetary Policy
2012-13 | With Chang and Spiegel | February 2013
We examine optimal monetary policy under prevailing Chinese policies – including capital controls, nominal exchange rate targets, and costly sterilization of foreign capital inflows. China’s combination of capital controls and exchange rate pegs disrupts its monetary policy, precluding adjustments that could maintain macroeconomic stability following a set of shocks that mirror its experience during the global financial crisis. However, comparing different policy regimes in a consistent DSGE framework, we find that the bulk of welfare gains achieved under full liberalization can be obtained by liberalizing either the capital account or the exchange rate.
Uncertainty Shocks are Aggregate Demand Shocks
2012-10 | With Leduc | February 2014
We present some empirical evidence and a theoretical argument that uncertainty shocks act like a negative aggregate demand shock, which raises unemployment and lowers inflation. We measure uncertainty using survey data from the United States and the United Kingdom. We estimate the macroeconomic effects of uncertainty shocks in a vector autoregression (VAR) model and document that uncertainty shocks accounted for about one percentage point increase in the unemployment rate in the Great Recession and recovery. We present a DSGE model to show that uncertainty shocks can be contractionary in a flexible-price economy with search frictions, in contrast to the standard Real Business Cycle model. We also show that the interactions between search frictions and nominal rigidities help amplify the macroeconomic effects of uncertainty shocks.
Temptation and Self-Control: Some Evidence and Applications
FRB Minneapolis Staff Report 367 | With Huang and Zhu | January 2006
This paper studies the empirical relevance of temptation and self-control using household-level data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. We estimate an infinite-horizon consumption-savings model that allows, but does not require, temptation and self-control in preferences. To help identify the presence of temptation, we exploit an implication of the theory that a tempted individual has a preference for commitment. In the presence of temptation, the cross-sectional distribution of the wealth-consumption ratio, in addition to that of consumption growth, becomes a determinant of the asset-pricing kernel, and the importance of this additional pricing factor depends on the strength of temptation. The estimates that we obtain provide statistical evidence supporting the presence of temptation. Based on our estimates, we explore some quantitative implications of this class of preferences on equity premium and on the welfare cost of business cycles.
Credit Constraints and Self-Fulfilling Business Cycles
Forthcoming in American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics | With Wang
We argue that credit constraints not just amplify fundamental macroeconomic shocks, they can also lead to self-fulfilling business cycles. To make this point, we study a model in which firms borrow to finance working capital, and imperfect contract enforcement gives rise to credit constraints. Productive firms face binding credit constraints, with the borrowing capacity limited by the present value of equity net of a fixed cost of financial intermediation. A drop in equity value tightens credit constraints and reallocates resources from productive to unproductive firms. Such reallocation reduces aggregate productivity, which further depresses equity value and further tightens credit constraints, generating a financial multiplier that amplifies the effects of fundamental shocks. Aggregate dynamics are isomorphic to those in a representative-agent economy with increasing returns, although firm-level technology exhibits constant returns. The magnitude of the financial multiplier corresponds to the degree of increasing returns. For sufficiently tight credit constraints, the model generates a sufficiently large financial multiplier and can lead to self-fulfilling business cycles.
Credit Constraints and Self-Fulfilling Business Cycles
American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics 6(1), January 2014, 32-69 | With Wang
We argue that credit constraints not only amplify fundamental shocks,
they can also lead to self-fulfilling business cycles. We study a model with heterogeneous firms, in which imperfect contract enforcement implies that productive firms face binding credit constraints, with the borrowing capacity limited by expected equity value. A drop in equity value tightens credit constraints and reallocates resources from productive to unproductive firms. Such reallocation reduces aggregate productivity, further depresses equity value, generating a financial multiplier. Aggregate dynamics are isomorphic to those in a representative-agent economy with increasing returns. For sufficiently tight credit constraints, the model generates self-fulfilling business cycles.
The Transmission of Productivity Shocks: What Do We Learn about DSGE Modeling?
Annales d’Economie et de Statistique (Annals of Economics and Statistics) 109/110, June 2013, 283-304 | With Phaneuf
Nominal rigidities are known to be important for the transmission of monetary policy. We argue that nominal rigidities are important also for the transmission of technology shocks, especially for explaining their effects on hours and real wages. Evidence suggests that a positive technology shock leads to a short-run decline in labor hours and a gradual rise in real wages. We examine the ability of an RBC model augmented with real frictions, a pure sticky-price model, a pure sticky-wage model, and a model combining sticky prices and sticky wages in accounting for this evidence. For each model, we examine the implications of the Frisch elasticity of hours and the extent of monetary policy accommodation for the results. We show that both sticky prices and sticky nominal wages are important for explaining the observed effects of technology shocks on labor market variables. This finding is robust and it holds with a small Frisch elasticity of hours and a relatively high frequency of price re-optimization that are consistent with microeconomic evidence
Land-Price Dynamics and Macroeconomic Fluctuations
Econometrica 81(3), May 2013, 1147-1184 | With Wang and Zha
We argue that positive co-movements between land prices and business investment
are a driving force behind the broad impact of land-price dynamics on the macroeconomy. We develop an economic mechanism that captures the co-movements by incorporating two key features into a DSGE model: We introduce land as a collateral asset in firms’ credit constraints, and we identify a shock that drives most of the observed fluctuations in land prices. Our estimates imply that these two features combine to generate an empirically important mechanism that amplifies and propagates macroeconomic fluctuations through the joint dynamics of land prices and business investment.
Should the Central Bank Be Concerned about Housing Prices?
Macroeconomic Dynamics 17, January 2013, 29-53 | With Jeske
Housing is an important component of the consumption basket. Since both rental prices and goods prices are sticky, the literature suggests that optimal monetary policy should stabilize both types of prices, with the optimal weight on rental inflation proportional to the housing expenditure share. In a two-sector DSGE model with sticky rental prices and goods prices, however, we find that the optimal weight on rental inflation in the Taylor rule is small—much smaller than that implied by the housing expenditure share. We show that the asymmetry in policy responses to rent inflation versus goods inflation stems from the asymmetry in factor intensity between the two sectors.
Sources of Macroeconomic Fluctuations: A Regime-Switching DSGE Approach
Quantitative Economics 2(2), July 2011, 251-301 | With Waggoner and Zha
We examine the sources of macroeconomic fluctuations by estimating a variety of richly parameterized DSGE models within a unified framework that incorporates regime switching both in shock variances and in the inflation target. We propose an efficient methodology for estimating regime-switching DSGE models. Our counterfactual exercises show that changes in the inflation target are not the main driving force of high inflation in the 1970s. The model that best fits the U.S. time-series data is the one with synchronized shifts in shock variances across two regimes, and the fit does not rely on strong nominal rigidities. We provide evidence that a shock to the capital depreciation rate, which resembles a financial shock, plays a crucial role in accounting for macroeconomic fluctuations.
Asymmetric Expectation Effects of Regime Shifts in Monetary Policy
Review of Economic Dynamics 12, April 2009, 284-303 | With Waggoner and Zha
This paper addresses two substantive issues: (1) Does the
magnitude of the expectation effect of regime switching in
monetary policy depend on a particular policy regime? (2) Under
which regime is the expectation effect quantitatively important?
Using two canonical DSGE models, we show that there exists
asymmetry in the expectation effect across regimes. The
expectation effect under the dovish policy regime is
quantitatively more important than that under the hawkish regime.
These results suggest that the possibility of regime shifts in
monetary policy can have important effects on rational agents’
expectation formation and on equilibrium dynamics. They offer a
theoretical explanation for the empirical possibility that a
policy shift from the dovish regime to the hawkish regime may not
be the main source of substantial reductions in the volatilities
of inflation and output.
Learning, Adaptive Expectations, and Technology Shocks
The Economic Journal 119, March 2009, 377-405 | With Huang and Zha
This study explores the macroeconomic implications of adaptive expectations in a standard growth model. We show that the self-confirming equilibrium under adaptive expectations is the same as the steady-state rational expectations equilibrium for all admissible parameter values, but that dynamics around the steady state are substantially different between the two equilibria. The differences are driven mainly by the dampened wealth effect and the strengthened intertemporal substitution effect, not by escapes emphasized by Williams (2003). Consequently, adaptive expectations can be an important source of frictions that amplify and propagate technology shocks and seem promising for generating plausible labor market dynamics.
Gains from International Monetary Policy Coordination: Does It Pay to Be Different?
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 32(7), July 2008, 2,085-2,117 | With Pappa
In a two country world where each country has a traded and a nontraded sector and each sector has sticky prices, optimal independent policy in general cannot replicate the natural-rate allocations. There are potential welfare gains from coordination since the planner under a cooperating regime internalizes a terms-of-trade externality that independent policymakers overlook. If the countries
have symmetric trading structures, however, the gains from coordination are quantitatively small. With asymmetric trading structures, the gains can be sizable since, in addition to internalizing the terms-of-trade externality, the planner optimally engineers a terms-of-trade bias that favors thecountry with a larger traded sector.
Investment-Specific Technological Change, Skill Accumulation, and Wage Inequality
Review of Economic Dynamics 11(2), April 2008, 314-334 | With He
Wage inequality between education groups in the United States has increased substantially since the early 1980s. The relative number of college-educated workers has also increased dramatically in the postwar period. This paper presents a unified framework where the dynamics of both skill accumulation and wage inequality arise as an equilibrium outcome driven by measured investment-specific technological change. Working through equipment-skill complementarity and endogenous skill accumulation, the model does well in capturing the steady growth in the relative quantity of skilled labor during the postwar period and the substantial rise in wage inequality after the early 1980s. Based on the calibrated model, we examine the quantitative effects of some hypothetical tax-policy reforms on skill accumulation, wage inequality, and welfare.
Technology Shocks and Labor Market Dynamics: Some Evidence and Theory
Journal of Monetary Economics 54(8), November 2007, 2,534-2,553 | With Phaneuf
A positive technology shock may lead to a rise or a fall in per capita hours, depending on how hours enter the empirical VAR model. We provide evidence that, independent of how hours enter the VAR, a positive technology shock leads to a weak response in nominal wage inflation, a modest decline in price inflation, and a modest rise in the real wage in the short run and a permanent rise in the long run. We then examine the ability of several competing theories to account for this VAR evidence. Our preferred model features sticky prices, sticky nominal wages, and habit formation. The same model also does well in accounting for the labor market evidence in the post-Volcker period.
Business Cycles with Staggered Prices and International Trade in Intermediate Inputs
Journal of Monetary Economics 54(4), May 2007, 1,271-1,289 | With Huang
International trade in intermediate inputs and, increasingly, in goods produced at multiple stages of processing has been widely studied in the real trade literature. We assess the role of this feature of modern world trade in accounting for some stylized facts about international business cycles. Our model with staggered prices and trade in intermediates across four stages of processing does well in explaining the observed international correlations in aggregate quantities, and it performs much better than a single-stage model with no trade in intermediates. The model in itself does not provide a full account of the cyclical behavior of the real exchange rate, but, compared to the single-stage model, it moves in the right direction.
Sellers’ Local Currency Pricing or Buyers’ Local Currency Pricing: Does It Matter for International Welfare Analysis?
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 30(7), July 2006, 1,183-1,213 | With Huang
We study international transmissions and welfare implications of monetary shocks in a two-country world with multiple stages of production and multiple border-crossings of intermediate goods. This empirically relevant feature is important, as it has opposite implications for two external spillover effects of a unilateral monetary expansion. If all production and trade are assumed to occur in a single stage, the conflict-of-interest terms-of-trade effect tends to dominate the common-interest efficiency-improvement effect for reasonable parameter values, so that the international welfare effects would depend in general on the underlying assumptions about the currencies of price setting. The stretch of production and trade across multiple stages of processing magnifies the efficiency-improvement effect and dampens the terms-of-trade effect. Thus, a monetary expansion can be mutually beneficial regardless of its source or the pricing assumptions.
Inflation Targeting: What Inflation Rate to Target?
Journal of Monetary Economics 52(8), November 2005, 1,435-1,462 | With Huang
In an economy with nominal rigidities in both an intermediate good sector and a finished good sector, and thus with a natural distinction between CPI and PPI inflation rates, a benevolent central bank faces a tradeoff between stabilizing the two measures of inflation, a final output gap and, unique to our model, a real marginal cost gap in the intermediate sector, so that optimal monetary policy is second-best. We discuss how to implement the optimal policy with minimal information requirement and evaluate the robustness of these simple rules when the central bank may not know the exact sources of shocks or nominal rigidities. A main finding is that a simple hybrid rule under which the short-term interest rate responds to CPI inflation and PPI inflation results in a welfare level close to the optimum, whereas policy rules that ignore PPI inflation or PPI sector shocks can result in significant welfare losses.
Does Trade Openness Matter for Aggregate Instability?
Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 29(7), July 2005, 1,165-1,192 | With De Fiore
This paper presents a cash-in-advance model of a small open economy and shows that whether an inflation-targeting interest rate rule introduces aggregate instability depends in general on the degree of openness to international trade. This result emerges regardless of whether prices are sticky or flexible. In a closed economy, as the monetary authority responds to movements in inflation, the resulting changes in interest rates affect aggregate consumption through an intertemporal substitution effect and an inflation tax effect. In a small open economy, this policy also induces changes in the terms of trade, which, depending on the degree of openness, can generate counteracting effects on consumption. As a consequence, the implications of interest rate rules on macroeconomic stability in an open economy differ from those in a closed economy.
Why Does the Cyclical Behavior of Real Wages Change Over Time?
American Economic Review 94(4), September 2004, 836-856 | With Huang and Phaneuf
The cyclical behavior of real wages has evolved from mildly countercyclical during the interwar period to modestly procyclical in the postwar era. This paper presents a general equilibrium business-cycle model that helps explain the evolution. In the model, changes in the real wage cyclicality arise from interactions between nominal wage and price rigidities and an evolving input-output structure.
Input-Output Structure and Nominal Rigidity: The Persistence Problem Revisited
Macroeconomic Dynamics 8(2), April 2004, 188-206 | With Huang
This paper revisits an important issue concerning the persistent real effect of a shock to monetary policy. Although recent sentiment has shifted away from price stickiness toward wage stickiness in explaining persistence, the present paper shows that introducing an input output structure tends to make the former an equally important monetary transmission mechanism. Under staggered wage setting, the well-known relative-wage effect is the only source of endogenous sluggishness in wage, and thus price, adjustments, regardless of whether there is an intermediate input. Under staggered price setting, relative wages are constant, but the presence of an intermediate input creates a real-wage effect that prevents nominal wages from deviating too much from a sticky intermediate-input price. Meanwhile, stickiness in the intermediate-input price translates directly into sluggishness in marginal-cost movement. This reinforces the endogenous rigidity in the nominal wages and makes firms pricing decisions even more rigid. Thus, although it makes no difference in output dynamics under staggered wage setting, the input output structure improves the ability of staggered price setting in generating persistence. As a consequence, the conventional wisdom on the equivalence of price and wage staggering may continue to hold for some reasonable parameter values.
Staggered Price-Setting, Staggered Wage-Setting, and Business Cycle Persistence
Journal of Monetary Economics 49(2), March 2002, 405-433 | With Huang
Production Chains and General Equilibrium Aggregate Dynamics
Journal of Monetary Economics 48(2), October 2001, 437-462 | With Huang
Seasonal Cycles, Business Cycles, and Monetary Policy
Journal of Monetary Economics 46(2), October 2000, 441-464