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Series:Working Papers  Bank:Federal Reserve Bank of Boston 

Working Paper
Technological innovation in mortgage underwriting and the growth in credit, 1985–2015
The application of information technology to finance, or ?fintech,? is expected to revolutionize many aspects of borrowing and lending in the future, but technology has been reshaping consumer and mortgage lending for many years. During the 1990s, computerization allowed mortgage lenders to reduce loan-processing times and largely replace human-based assessments of credit risk with default predictions generated by sophisticated empirical models. Debt-to-income ratios at origination add little to the predictive power of these models, so the new automated underwriting systems allowed higher debt-to-income ratios than previous underwriting guidelines would have allowed. In this way, technology brought about an exogenous change in lending standards that was especially relevant for borrowers with low current incomes relative to their expected future incomes?in particular, young college graduates. By contrast, the data suggest that the credit expansion during the 2000s housing boom was an endogenous response to widespread expectations of higher future house prices, as average mortgage sizes rose for borrowers across the entire income distribution.
AUTHORS: Loewenstein, Lara; Willen, Paul S.; Foote, Christopher L.
DATE: 2019-11-01

Working Paper
Accounting for racial wealth disparities in the United States
Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, this paper updates and extends previous research on the racial wealth gap in the United States. We explore several hypotheses that help explain differential wealth accumulation by racial groups, including the importance of receiving inheritances and other financial support from relatives and the conditions in local real estate markets. By exploring the disparities among white, black, and Hispanic families, we make new contributions to the literature. We find that observable factors account for the entire wealth gap between white and Hispanic families and most of the gap between white and black families. Differences in human capital, demographics, and family financial support each make substantial contributions to the wealth gaps we observe between white and nonwhite families. Yet a substantial portion of the wealth gap between white and black families remains unaccounted for after a detailed decomposition. This unexplained portion is greater at the top of the wealth distribution.
AUTHORS: Thompson, Jeffrey P.; Suarez, Gustavo A.
DATE: 2019-12-01

Working Paper
Tariff passthrough at the border and at the store: evidence from US trade policy
We use micro data collected at the border and at retailers to characterize the effects brought by recent changes in US trade policy ? particularly the tariffs placed on imports from China ? on importers, consumers, and exporters. We start by documenting that the tariffs were almost fully passed through to the total prices paid by importers, suggesting that the tariffs? incidence has fallen largely on the United States. Since we estimate the response of prices to exchange rates to be far more muted, the recent depreciation of the Chinese renminbi is unlikely to alter this conclusion. Next, using product-level data from several large multinational retailers, we demonstrate that the impact of the tariffs on retail prices is more mixed. Some affected product categories have seen sharp price increases, but the difference between affected and unaffected products is generally quite modest, suggesting that retail margins have fallen. These retailers? imports increased after the initial announcement of possible tariffs, but before their full implementation, so the intermediate passthrough of tariffs to their prices may not persist. Finally, in contrast to the case of foreign exporters facing US tariffs, we show that US exporters lowered their prices on goods subjected to foreign retaliatory tariffs compared to exports of non-targeted goods.
AUTHORS: Neiman, Brent; Tang, Jenny; Cavallo, Alberto; Gopinath, Gita
DATE: 2019-11-01

Working Paper
Exchange rates and monetary policy
In this paper we confront the data with the financial-market folk wisdom that monetary policy is one of the key drivers of nominal exchange rates. Focusing on measures of conventional and unconventional monetary policy, we find that monetary policy surprises and changes in expectations about future monetary policy can explain a sizable fraction of the variation in exchange rate changes for certain currency pairs. However, our results show that expected excess returns account for most of this variation. We also find that the importance unconventional monetary policy plays for explaining exchange rate changes is larger in the period since the United States hit the zero lower bound in December 2008. In contrast, the importance of conventional monetary policy is lower during this period due to a decrease in the volatility of monetary policy surprises. Meanwhile, the marginal response of exchange rate changes relative to conventional policy surprises actually has strengthened due to a change in the relationship between these surprises and expected excess returns.
AUTHORS: Stavrakeva, Vania; Tang, Jenny
DATE: 2015-10-29

Working Paper
A general-equilibrium asset-pricing approach to the measurement of nominal and real bank output
This paper addresses the proper measurement of financial service output that is not priced explicitly. It shows how to impute nominal service output from financial intermediaries? interest income and how to construct price indices for those financial services. We present an optimizing model with financial intermediaries that provide financial services to resolve asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders. We embed these intermediaries in a dynamic, stochastic, general-equilibrium model where assets are priced competitively according to their systematic risk, as in the standard consumption capital-asset-pricing model. In this environment, we show that it is critical to take risk into account in order to measure financial output accurately. We also show that even using a risk-adjusted reference rate does not solve all the problems associated with measuring nominal financial service output. Our model allows us to address important outstanding questions in output and productivity measurement for financial firms, such as: (1) What are the correct ?reference rates? to use in calculating bank output? In particular, should they take account of risk? (2) If reference rates need to be risk-adjusted, does it mean that they must be ex ante rates of return? (3) What is the right price deflator for the output of financial firms? Is it just the general price index? (4) When?if ever?should we count capital gains of financial firms as part of financial service output?
AUTHORS: Wang, J. Christina; Fernald, John G.; Basu, Susanto
DATE: 2004

Working Paper
Gross job flows and firms
This paper extends the work of Dunne, Roberts, and Samuelson [3] and Davis, Haltiwanger, and Schuh [2] on gross job flows among manufacturing plants. Gross job creation, destruction, and reallocation have been shown to be important in understanding the birth, growth, and death of plants, and the relation of plant life cycles to the business cycle. However, little is known about job flows between firms or how job flows among plants occur within firms (corporate restructuring). We use information on company organization from the Longitudinal Research Database (LRD) to investigate the relationship between plant-level and firm-level job flows. We document: (1) the fraction of plant-level gross flows occurring between firms; and (2) gross job flows by the extent of excess job reallocation occurring in firms.
AUTHORS: Schuh, Scott; Triest, Robert K.
DATE: 1999

Working Paper
State disinvestment in higher education: the impact on public research universities' patent applications
While state appropriations are the largest revenue source of the U.S. public university systems, they have declined significantly over the past several decades. Surprisingly, there is little empirical work on the effect of state appropriation cuts on the research productivity of public universities. Helping fill that gap, this paper is the first to examine the role that state appropriations play in public universities? patent production. The results suggest that state appropriation cuts have a negative impact on the number of approved patent applications from public research universities. Lower state appropriations are shown to lead to a reduction in research expenditures, especially wages and salaries paid to research staff.
DATE: 2018-07-01

Working Paper
Cyclical wages in a search and bargaining model with large firms
This paper presents a complete general equilibrium model with flexible wages, where the degree to which wages and productivity change when cyclical employment changes is roughly consistent with postwar U.S. data. Firms with market power are assumed to bargain simultaneously with many employees, each of whom finds himself matched with a firm only after a process of search. When employment increases as a result of reductions in market power, the marginal product of labor falls. This fall tempers the bargaining power of workers and thus dampens the increase in their real wages. The procyclical movement of wages is dampened further if the posting of vacancies is subject to increasing returns.
AUTHORS: Rotemberg, Julio J.
DATE: 2006

Working Paper
Changes in the Federal Reserve's inflation target: causes and consequences
This paper estimates a New Keynesian model to draw inferences about the behavior of the Federal Reserve?s unobserved inflation target. The results indicate that the target rose from 1- 1/4 percent in 1959 to over 8 percent in the mid-to-late 1970s before falling back below 2-1/2 percent in 2004. The results also provide some support for the hypothesis that over the entire postwar period, Federal Reserve policy has systematically translated short-run price pressures set off by supply-side shocks into more persistent movements in inflation itself, although considerable uncertainty remains about the true source of shifts in the inflation target.
AUTHORS: Ireland, Peter N.
DATE: 2005

Working Paper
Tax-exempt bonds really do subsidize municipal capital!
The traditional view of municipal finance holds that the federal tax-exemption of interest payments by state and local (municipal) governments provides a capital cost subsidy to municipal investment equal to the difference between interest rates on taxable and tax-exempt bonds. Recently, a new view has emerged which argues that tax-exemption plays a minor role, if any, in shaping municipal investment decisions. According to this new view, communities will use tax finance at the margin except in the unusual case where only debt finance is used. Thus, tax-exemption is an intramarginal (lump sum) transfer providing no incentive for municipal investment. This paper concludes that the new view's policy prescriptions rest on implausible assumptions about voters' financial opportunities and costs. In particular, the new view assumes that the decisive voter has unlimited financial assets on which he can draw to finance tax payments. The new view is shown to contain several anomalous results, including unexploited arbitrage profits and the implication that tax-exemption increases the municipal cost of capital. A broadened analysis incorporating leverage-related interest rates and constraints on financial assets and debt restores tax-exemption as a municipal capital-cost subsidy under a wide range of conditions.
AUTHORS: Fortune, Peter
DATE: 1996




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