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Series:Public Policy Discussion Paper 

Discussion Paper
Quantifying the role of federal and state taxes in mitigating income inequality

Income inequality has risen dramatically in the United States since at least 1980. This paper quantifies the role that the tax policies of the federal and state governments have played in mitigating this income inequality. The analysis, which isolates the contribution of federal taxes and state taxes separately, employs two approaches. First, cross-sectional estimates compare before-tax and after-tax inequality across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Second, inequality estimates across time are calculated to assess the evolution of the effects of tax policies. The results from the ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 11-7

Discussion Paper
Effects of credit scores on consumer payment choice

This paper investigates the effects of credit scores on consumer payment behavior, especially on debit and credit card use. Anecdotally, a negative relationship between debit card use and credit score has been reported; however, it is not clear whether that relationship is related to other factors, such as education or income, or whether it is a mere correlation. We use a new consumer survey dataset to examine whether this negative relationship holds after controlling for various consumer characteristics, including demographic and financial characteristics, consumers' perceptions toward ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 12-1

Discussion Paper
Social Security and unsecured debt

Most young households simultaneously hold both unsecured debt on which they pay an average of 10 percent interest and social security wealth on which they earn less than 2 percent. We document this fact using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We then consider a life-cycle model with ?tempted? households, who find it impossible to commit to an optimal consumption plan and ?disciplined? households who have no such problem, and we explore ways to reduce this inefficiency. We show that allowing households to use social security wealth to pay off debt while exempting young households ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 04-10

Discussion Paper
Why did so many people make so many ex post bad decisions?: the causes of the foreclosure crisis

This paper presents 12 facts about the mortgage market. The authors argue that the facts refute the popular story that the crisis resulted from financial industry insiders deceiving uninformed mortgage borrowers and investors. Instead, they argue that borrowers and investors made decisions that were rational and logical given their ex post overly optimistic beliefs about house prices. The authors then show that neither institutional features of the mortgage market nor financial innovations are any more likely to explain those distorted beliefs than they are to explain the Dutch tulip bubble ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 12-2

Discussion Paper
A new approach to raising Social Security’s earliest eligibility age

While Social Security?s Normal Retirement Age (NRA) is increasing to 67, the Earliest Eligibility Age (EEA) remains at 62. Similar plans to increase the EEA raise concerns that they would create excessive hardship on workers who are worn-out or in bad health. One simple rule to increase the EEA is to tie an increase to the number of quarters of covered earnings. Such a provision would allow those with long work lives?presumably the less educated and lower paid?to quit earlier. We provide evidence that this simple rule would not satisfy the goal of preventing undue hardship on certain workers. ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 08-4

Discussion Paper
Reducing foreclosures

This paper takes a skeptical look at a leading argument about what is causing the foreclosure crisis and what should be done to stop it. We use an economic model to focus on two key decisions: the borrower?s choice to default on the mortgage and the lender?s choice on whether to renegotiate or ?modify? the loan. The theoretical model and econometric analysis illustrate that ?unaffordable? loans, defined as those with high mortgage payments relative to income at origination, are unlikely to be the main reason that borrowers decide to default. Rather, the typical problem appears to be a ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 09-2

Discussion Paper
Alternative measures of the Federal Reserve banks' cost of equity capital

The Monetary Control Act of 1980 requires the Federal Reserve System to provide payment services to depository institutions through the twelve Federal Reserve Banks at prices that fully reflect the costs a private-sector provider would incur, including a cost of equity capital (COE). Although Fama and French (1997) conclude that COE estimates are ?woefully? and ?unavoidably? imprecise, the Reserve Banks require such an estimate every year. We examine several COE estimates based on the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) and compare them using econometric and materiality criteria. Our results ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 05-2

Discussion Paper
Why don’t most merchants use price discounts to steer consumer payment choice?

Recent legislation and court settlements in the United States allow merchants to use price discounts to steer customers to pay with means of payment that are less costly to merchants. This paper suggests one method of calculating merchants? change in profit associated with giving price discounts to buyers who pay with debit cards and cash. We use data from the pilot of the Boston Fed?s Diary of Consumer Payment Choice to compute rough estimates of the expected net cost reduction by merchant type that may result from debit card and cash price discounts. We find that steering consumers to debit ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 12-9

Discussion Paper
Why does unemployment hurt the employed?: evidence from the life satisfaction gap between the public and private sectors

High rates of unemployment entail substantial costs to the working population in terms of reduced subjective well-being. This paper studies the importance of individual economic security, in particular, job security, in workers' well-being by exploiting sector-specific institutional differences in the exposure to economic shocks. Public servants have stricter dismissal protection and face a lower risk of their organization's bankruptcy than do private sector employees. The empirical results for individual panel data for Germany and repeated cross-sectional data for the United States and the ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 08-1

Discussion Paper
Do households benefit from financial deregulation and innovation?: the case of the mortgage market

The U.S. mortgage market has experienced phenomenal change over the last 35 years. Most observers believe that the deregulation of the banking industry and financial markets generally has played an important part in this transformation. One issue that has received particular attention is the role that the housing Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have played in the development of a secondary market in mortgages. This paper develops and implements a technique for assessing the impact of changes in the mortgage market on individuals and households. ; Our ...
Public Policy Discussion Paper , Paper 06-6

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