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Series:Staff Reports 

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Determinants of college major choice: identification using an information experiment

This paper studies the determinants of college major choice using an experimentally generated panel of beliefs, obtained by providing students with information on the true population distribution of various major-specific characteristics. Students logically revise their beliefs in response to the information, and their subjective beliefs about future major choice are associated with beliefs about their own earnings and ability. We estimate a rich model of college major choice using the panel of beliefs data. While expected earnings and perceived ability are a significant determinant of major ...
Staff Reports , Paper 500

Report
DSGE forecasts of the lost recovery

The years following the Great Recession were challenging for forecasters. Unlike other deep downturns, this recession was not followed by a swift recovery, but generated a sizable and persistent output gap that was not accompanied by deflation as a traditional Phillips curve relationship would have predicted. Moreover, the zero lower bound and unconventional monetary policy generated an unprecedented policy environment. We document the real real-time forecasting performance of the New York Fed dynamic stochastic general equilibrium (DSGE) model during this period and explain the results using ...
Staff Reports , Paper 844

Report
Endogenous productivity and development accounting

Cross-country data reveal that the per capita incomes of the richest countries exceed those of the poorest countries by a factor of thirty-five. We formalize a model with embodied technical change in which newer, more productive vintages of capital coexist with older, less productive vintages. A reduction in the cost of investment raises both the quantity and productivity of capital simultaneously. The model induces a simple relationship between the relative price of investment goods and per capita income. Using cross-country data on the prices of investment goods, we find that the model does ...
Staff Reports , Paper 258

Report
Does CFPB Oversight Crimp Credit?

We study how regulatory oversight by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) affects mortgage credit supply and other aspects of bank behavior. We use a difference-in-differences approach exploiting changes in regulatory intensity and a size cutoff below which banks are exempt from CFPB scrutiny. CFPB oversight leads to a reduction in lending in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) market, which primarily serves riskier borrowers. However, it is also associated with a lower transition probability from moderate to serious delinquency, suggesting that tighter regulatory oversight ...
Staff Reports , Paper 857

Report
Characteristic-Sorted Portfolios: Estimation and Inference

Portfolio sorting is ubiquitous in the empirical finance literature, where it has been widely used to identify pricing anomalies. Despite its popularity, little attention has been paid to the statistical properties of the procedure. We develop a general framework for portfolio sorting by casting it as a nonparametric estimator. We present valid asymptotic inference methods, and a valid mean square error expansion of the estimator leading to an optimal choice for the number of portfolios. In practical settings, the optimal choice may be much larger than standard choices of five or ten. To ...
Staff Reports , Paper 788

Report
Modigliani Meets Minsky: Inequality, Debt, and Financial Fragility in America, 1950-2016

This paper studies the secular increase in U.S. household debt and its relation to growing income inequality and financial fragility. We exploit a new household-level data set that covers the joint distributions of debt, income, and wealth in the United States over the past seven decades. The data show that increased borrowing by middle-class families with low income growth played a central role in rising indebtedness. Debt-to-income ratios have risen most dramatically for households between the 50th and 90th percentiles of the income distribution. While their income growth was low, ...
Staff Reports , Paper 924

Report
Market sidedness: insights into motives for trade initiation

In this paper, we infer motives for trade initiation from market sidedness. We define trading as more two-sided (one-sided) if the correlation between the numbers of buyer- and seller-initiated trades increases (decreases), and assess changes in sidedness (relative to a control sample) around events that identify trade initiators. Consistent with asymmetric information, trading is more one-sided prior to merger news. Consistent with belief heterogeneity, trading is more two-sided (1) before earnings and macro announcements with greater dispersions of analyst forecasts and (2) after earnings ...
Staff Reports , Paper 292

Report
Insolvency after the 2005 bankruptcy reform

Using a comprehensive panel dataset on U.S. households, we study the effects of the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA), the most substantive reform of personal bankruptcy in the United States since the Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978. The 2005 legislation introduced a means test based on income to establish eligibility for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and increased the administrative requirements to file, leading to a rise in the opportunity cost and, especially, the financial cost of filing for bankruptcy. We study the effects of the reform on bankruptcy, insolvency, ...
Staff Reports , Paper 725

Report
Do Monetary Policy Announcements Shift Household Expectations?

We use a decade of daily survey data from Gallup to study how monetary policy influences households’ beliefs about economic conditions. We first document that public confidence in the state of the economy reacts instantaneously to certain types of macroeconomic news. Next, we show that surprises to the federal funds target rate are among the news that have statistically significant and instantaneous effects on economic confidence. Specifically, we find that a surprise increase in the target rate robustly leads to an immediate decline in household confidence, at odds with previous findings ...
Staff Reports , Paper 897

Report
A retrospective look at the U.S. productivity growth resurgence

It is now widely recognized that information technology (IT) was critical to the dramatic acceleration of U.S. labor productivity growth in the mid-1990s. This paper traces the evolution of productivity estimates to document how and when this perception emerged. Early studies concluded that IT was relatively unimportant. It was only after the massive IT investment boom of the late 1990s that this investment and underlying productivity increases in the IT-producing sectors were identified as important sources of growth. Although IT has diminished in significance since the dot-com crash of ...
Staff Reports , Paper 277

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