The Time for Austerity: Estimating the Average Treatment Effect of Fiscal Policy
Elevated government debt levels in advanced economies have risen rapidly as sovereigns absorbed private sector losses and cyclical deficits blew up in the Global Financial Crisis and subsequent slump. A rush to fiscal austerity followed but its justifications and impacts have been heavily debated. Research on the effects of austerity on macroeconomic aggregates remains unsettled, mired by the difficulty of identifying multipliers from observational data. This paper reconciles seemingly disparate estimates of multipliers within a unified framework. We do this by first evaluating the validity ...
Sovereigns versus Banks: Credit, Crises, and Consequences
Two separate narratives have emerged in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. One speaks of private financial excess and the key role of the banking system in leveraging and deleveraging the economy. The other emphasizes the public sector balance sheet over the private and worries about the risks of lax fiscal policies. However, the two may interact in important and understudied ways. This paper studies the co-evolution of public and private sector debt in advanced countries since 1870. We find that in advanced economies financial stability risks have come from private sector credit booms ...
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.
Global Financial Cycles and Risk Premiums
This paper studies the synchronization of financial cycles across 17 advanced economies over the past 150 years. The comovement in credit, house prices, and equity prices has reached historical highs in the past three decades. The sharp increase in the comovement of global equity markets is particularly notable. We demonstrate that fluctuations in risk premiums, and not risk-free rates and dividends, account for a large part of the observed equity price synchronization after 1990. We also show that U.S. monetary policy has come to play an important role as a source of fluctuations in risk ...
The impact of risk cycles on business cycles: a historical view
We investigate the effects of financial risk cycles on business cycles, using a panel spanning 73 countries since 1900. Agents use a Bayesian learning model to form their beliefs on risk. We construct a proxy of these beliefs and show that perceived low risk encourages risk-taking, augmenting growth at the cost of accumulating financial vulnerabilities, and therefore, a reversal in growth follows. The reversal is particularly pronounced when the low-risk environment persists and credit growth is excessive. Global-risk cycles have a stronger effect on growth than local-risk cycles via their ...
No price like home: global house prices, 1870-2012
How have house prices evolved in the long-run? This paper presents annual house price indices for 14 advanced economies since 1870. Based on extensive data collection, we are able to show for the first time that house prices in most industrial economies stayed constant in real terms from the 19th to the mid-20th century, but rose sharply in recent decades. Land prices, not construction costs, hold the key to understanding the trajectory of house prices in the long-run. Residential land prices have surged in the second half of the 20th century, but did not increase meaningfully before. We ...
Money, Banking, and Old-School Historical Economics
We review developments in the history of money, banking, and financial intermediation over the last twenty years. We focus on studies of financial development, including the role of regulation and the history of central banking. We also review the literature of banking and financial crises. This area has been largely unaffected by the so-called new econometric methods that seek to prove causality in reduced form settings. We discuss why historical macroeconomics is less amenable to such methods, discuss the underlying concepts of causality, and emphasize that models remain the backbone of our ...
Decomposing the Fiscal Multiplier
Unusual circumstances often coincide with unusual fiscal policy actions. Much attention has been paid to estimates of how fiscal policy affects the macroeconomy, but these are typically average treatment effects. In practice, the fiscal “multiplier” at any point in time depends on the monetary policy response. Using the IMF fiscal consolidations dataset for identification and a new decomposition-based approach, we show how to evaluate these monetary-fiscal effects. In the data, the fiscal multiplier varies considerably with monetary policy: it can be zero, or as large as 2 depending on ...
Unprecedented actions: the Federal Reserve’s response to the global financial crisis in historical perspective
Interventions by the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis of 2007-2009 were generally viewed as unprecedented and in violation of the rules---notably Bagehot?s rule---that a central bank should follow to avoid the time-inconsistency problem and moral hazard. Reviewing the evidence for central banks? crisis management in the U.S., the U.K. and France from the late nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth century, we find that there were precedents for all of the unusual actions taken by the Fed. When these were successful interventions, they followed contingent and target rules ...
The Great Mortgaging: Housing Finance, Crises, and Business Cycles
This paper unveils a new resource for macroeconomic research: a long-run dataset covering disaggregated bank credit for 17 advanced economies since 1870. The new data show that the share of mortgages on banks? balance sheets doubled in the course of the 20th century, driven by a sharp rise of mortgage lending to households. Household debt to asset ratios have risen substantially in many countries. Financial stability risks have been increasingly linked to real estate lending booms which are typically followed by deeper recessions and slower recoveries. Housing finance has come to play a ...