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Author:Wright, Mark L. J. 

Working Paper
External and Public Debt Crises

The recent debt crises in Europe and the U.S. states feature similar sharp increases in spreads on government debt but also show important differences. In Europe, the crisis occurred at high government indebtedness levels and had spillovers to the private sector. In the United States, state government indebtedness was low, and the crisis had no spillovers to the private sector. We show theoretically and empirically that these different debt experiences result from the interplay between differences in the ability of governments to interfere in private external debt contracts and differences in ...
Working Paper Series , Paper WP-2015-5

Report
Bad Investments and Missed Opportunities? Postwar Capital Flows to Asia and Latin America

After World War II, international capital flowed into slow-growing Latin America rather than fast-growing Asia. This is surprising as, everything else equal, fast growth should imply high capital returns. This paper develops a capital flow accounting framework to quantify the role of different factor market distortions in producing these patterns. Surprisingly, we find that distortions in labor markets ? rather than domestic or international capital markets ? account for the bulk of these flows. Labor market distortions that indirectly depress investment incentives by lowering equilibrium ...
Staff Report , Paper 563

Newsletter
A New Era of Community Banking

The 11th annual Community Bankers Symposium, cosponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), was held at the Chicago Fed on November 18, 2016. This article summarizes key presentations and discussions at the event.
Chicago Fed Letter

Working Paper
The Stock of External Sovereign Debt: Can We Take the Data at ‘Face Value’?

The stock of sovereign debt is typically measured at face value. Defined as the undiscounted sum of future principal repayments, face values are misleading when debts are issued with different contractual forms or maturities. In this paper, we construct alternative measures of the stock of external sovereign debt for 100 developing countries from 1979 through 2006 that correct for differences in contractual form and maturity. We show that our alternative measures: (1) paint a very different quantitative, and in some cases also qualitative, picture of the stock of developing country external ...
Working Paper Series , Paper WP-2014-5

Report
Urban structure and growth

Most economic activity occurs in cities. This creates a tension between local increasing returns, implied by the existence of cities, and aggregate constant returns, implied by balanced growth. To address this tension, we develop a general equilibrium theory of economic growth in an urban environment. In our theory, variation in the urban structure through the growth, birth, and death of cities is the margin that eliminates local increasing returns to yield constant returns to scale in the aggregate. We show that, consistent with the data, the theory produces a city size distribution that is ...
Staff Report , Paper 381

Report
Establishment size dynamics in the aggregate economy

Why do growth and net exit rates of establishments decline with size? What determines the size distribution of establishments? This paper presents a theory of establishment dynamics that simultaneously rationalizes the basic facts on economy-wide establishment growth, net exit, and size distributions. The theory emphasizes the accumulation of industry-specific human capital in response to industry-specific productivity shocks. It predicts that establishment growth and net exit rates should decline faster with size and that the establishment size distribution should have thinner tails in ...
Staff Report , Paper 382

Working Paper
Do countries default in “bad times”?

This paper uses a new dataset to study the relationship between economic output and sovereign default for the period 1820-2004. We find a negative but surprisingly weak relationship between output and default. Throughout history, countries have indeed defaulted during bad times (when output was relatively low), but they have also maintained debt service in the face of severe adverse shocks, and they have defaulted when domestic economic conditions were favorable. We show that this constitutes a puzzle for standard theories, which predict a much tighter negative relationship as default ...
Working Paper Series , Paper 2007-17

Newsletter
How Much Debt Does the U.S. Government Owe?

The U.S. government is often referred to as the world?s biggest debtor. But how much debt does it owe? A visit to the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury yields a bewildering array of different measures of U.S. federal government debt. Although the gross debt of the U.S. federal government is approaching $18 trillion, the debt that is subject to the debt limit is a few billion dollars smaller, while debt in the hands of the public is less than $13 trillion.
Chicago Fed Letter

Report
External and Public Debt Crises

The recent debt crises in Europe and the U.S. states feature similar sharp increases in spreads on government debt but also show important differences. In Europe, the crisis occurred at high government indebtedness levels and had spillovers to the private sector. In the United States, state government indebtedness was low, and the crisis had no spillovers to the private sector. We show theoretically and empirically that these different debt experiences result from the interplay between differences in the ability of governments to interfere in private external debt contracts and differences in ...
Staff Report , Paper 515

Working Paper
Greed as a Source of Polarization

The political process in the United States appears to be highly polarized: evidence from voting patterns finds that the political positions of legislators have diverged substantially, while the largest campaign contributions come from the most extreme lobby groups and are directed to the most extreme candidates. Is the rise in campaign contributions the cause of the growing polarity of political views? In this paper, we show that, in standard models of lobbying and electoral competition, a free-rider problem amongst potential contributors leads naturally to a divergence in campaign ...
Working Papers , Paper 18-1

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