Trade, Relative Prices, and the Canadian Great Depression
Canadian GNP per capita fell by roughly a third between 1928 and 1933. Although the decline and the slow recovery of GNP resemble the American Great Depression, trade was more important in Canada, as exports and imports each accounted for roughly a quarter of Canadian GNP in 1928. The fall in the trade share of GNP of roughly 30 percent between 1928 and 1933 was accompanied by a decline of over 20 percent in the relative prices of exports and imports relative to nontraded goods. We develop a three-sector small open economy model, where wages in the nontraded and import competing sectors adjust slowly due to Taylor contracts. We feed the relative prices of imports and exports from the data into the model, and find that the fall in traded goods prices can account for roughly half of the fall in GNP during the Canadian Great Contraction.
AUTHORS: MacGee, James; Amaral, Pedro S.
Re-Examining the Role of Sticky Wages in the U.S. Great Contraction: A Multisectoral Approach
We quantify the role of contractionary monetary shocks and nominal wage rigidities in the U.S. Great Contraction. In contrast to conventional wisdom, we find that the average economy-wide real wage varied little over 1929?33, although real wages rose significantly in some industries. Using a two-sector model with intermediates and nominal wage rigidities in one sector, we find that contractionary monetary shocks can account for only a quarter of the fall in GDP, and as little as a fifth at the trough. Intermediate linkages play a key role, as the output decline in our benchmark is roughly half as large as in a two-sector model without intermediates.
AUTHORS: Amaral, Pedro S.; MacGee, James
Optimal taxation and debt with uninsurable risks to human capital accumulation
We consider an economy where individuals face uninsurable risks to their human capital accumulation and study the problem of determining the optimal level of linear taxes on capital and labor income together with the optimal path of the debt level. We show both analytically and numerically that in the presence of such risks it is beneficial to tax both labor and capital income and to have positive government debt.
AUTHORS: Gottardi, Piero; Kajii, Atsushi; Nakajima, Tomoyuki
Student loan debt and economic outcomes
This policy brief examines the impact of student loan debt on individuals' homeownership status and wealth accumulation, employing a rich set of financial and demographic variables that are not available in many of the existing studies that use credit bureau data. It is important to understand whether and, if so, how student loan debt affects households' economic decisions because student loan debt has now surpassed credit card debt to become the second largest amount of household debt outstanding after mortgage debt.
AUTHORS: Cooper, Daniel H.; Wang, J. Christina
Rationally Inattentive Consumer: An Experiment
This paper presents a laboratory experiment that directly tests the theoretical predictions of consumption choices under rational inattention. Subjects are asked to select consumption when income is random. They can optimally decide to reduce uncertainty about income by acquiring signals about it. The informativeness of the signals directly relates to the cognitive effort required to process the information. We find that subjects? behavior is largely in line with the predictions of the theory: 1) Subjects optimally make stochastic consumption choices; 2) They respond to incentives and changes in the economic environment by varying their attention and consumption; 3) They respond asymmetrically to positive and negative shocks to income, with negative shocks triggering stronger and faster reactions than positive shocks.
AUTHORS: Civelli, Andrea; Deck, Cary; LeBlanc, Justin D.; Tutino, Antonella
Rationally Inattentive Savers and Monetary Policy Changes: A Laboratory Experiment
We present a model where rationally inattentive agents decide how much to save while imperfectly tracking interest rate changes. Suitable assumptions on agents’ preferences and interest rate distribution allow us to derive testable theoretical predictions and their implications for monetary policy. We probe these predictions using a laboratory experiment with induced inattention that closely reflects the theoretical assumptions. We find that, empirically, the laboratory data corroborates the results of the theoretical model. In particular, we show that experimental subjects respond to changes in the interest rate policy environment with: (1) a decrease in savings when the utility gain from savings does not compensate for the cognitive cost of tracking the interest rate; (2) more informed and deliberate consumption/investment choices when the monetary authority stabilizes the economy by lowering the volatility of the policy rate, implementing a version of Delphic forward guidance; (3) a slight decrease in information processing but no behavioral changes in consumption when the monetary authority signals current monetary policy stance, implementing a version of Odyssean forward guidance; (4) a sizable decrease in investment when their perception of the outlook deteriorates. These experimental and theoretical findings agree with the empirical literature on the effect of monetary policy on households’ consumption behavior in U.S. data and abroad.
AUTHORS: Deck, Cary; Civelli, Andrea; Tutino, Antonella
The asymmetric effects of deflation on consumption spending: evidence from the Great Depression
Does expected deflation lead to a fall in consumption spending? Using data for U.S. grocery store sales and department store sales from 1919 to 1939, this paper shows that expected price changes have asymmetric effects on consumption spending. Department store sales (durable consumption) react negatively to the expectation of falling prices, but grocery store sales (non-durable consumption) do not react to expected price changes.
AUTHORS: Davis, J. Scott
Is China Fudging Its GDP Figures? Evidence from Trading Partner Data
We propose using imports, measured as reported exports of trading partners, as an alternative benchmark to gauge the accuracy of alternative Chinese indicators (including GDP) of fluctuations in economic activity. Externally-reported imports are likely to be relatively well measured, as well as free from domestic manipulation. Using principal components, we derive activity indices from a wide range of indicators and examine their fit to (trading-partner reported) imports. We choose a preferred index of eight non-GDP indicators (which we call the China Cyclical Activity Tracker, or C-CAT). Comparison with that index and others indicate that Chinese statistics have broadly become more reliable in measuring cyclical fluctuations over time. However, GDP adds little information relative to combinations of other indicators. Moreover, since 2013, Chinese GDP growth has shown little volatility around a gradually slowing trend. Other measures, including the C-CAT and imports, do not show this reduction in volatility. Since 2017, the C-CAT slowed from well above trend to close to trend. As of mid- 2019, it was giving the same cyclical signal as GDP.
AUTHORS: Spiegel, Mark M.; Hsu, Eric; Fernald, John G.
Uncertainty and Fiscal Cliffs
Large pending fiscal policy changes, such as in the United States in 2012 or in Japan with consumption taxes, often generate considerable uncertainty. ?Fiscal cliff? episodes have several features: an announced possible future change, a skewed set of possible out-comes, the possibility that implementation may not actually occur, and a known resolution date. This paper develops a model capturing these features and studies their impact. Fiscal cliff uncertainty shocks have immediate impact, with a magnitude that depends on the probability of implementation, which generates economic volatility. The possibility of fiscal cliffs lowers economic activity even in periods of relative certainty.
AUTHORS: Foerster, Andrew T.; Davig, Troy A.
Sentiments and Economic Activity: Evidence from U.S. States
Using data from the Michigan Survey, we find a strong relationship between expectations concerning national output growth and future state economic activity. This linkage suggests that sentiment influences aggregate demand. This relationship is robust to a battery of sensitivity tests. However, national sentiment is also positively related to past state economic activity. We therefore turn to instrumental variables, positing that agents in states with a higher share of congressmen from the political party of the sitting President will be more optimistic. This instrument is strong in the first stage, and confirms the relationship between sentiment and future state economic activity.
AUTHORS: Benhabib, Jess; Spiegel, Mark M.