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Working Papers

Working Papers

  • WP 19-06 | On the Heterogeneous Welfare Gains and Losses from Trade

    Daniel R. Carroll Sewon Hur


    How are the gains and losses from trade distributed across individuals within a country? First, we document that tradable goods constitute a larger fraction of expenditures for poor households. Second, we build a trade model with nonhomothetic preferences—to generate the documented relationship between tradable expenditure shares, income, and wealth—and uninsurable earnings risk—to generate heterogeneity in income and wealth. Third, we use the calibrated model to quantify the differential welfare gains and losses from trade along the income and wealth distribution. In a numerical exercise, we permanently reduce trade costs so as to generate a rise in import share of GDP commensurate with that seen in the data from 2001 to 2014. We find that households in the lowest wealth decile experience welfare gains over the transition, measured by permanent consumption equivalents, that are 67 percent larger than those in the highest wealth decile.   Read More

  • WP 18-07R | Opioids and the Labor Market

    Dionissi Aliprantis Kyle Fee Mark E. Schweitzer


    This paper studies the relationship between local opioid prescription rates and labor market outcomes. We improve the joint measurement of labor market outcomes and prescription rates in the rural areas where nearly 30 percent of the US population lives. We find that increasing the local prescription rate by 10 percent decreases the prime-age employment rate by 0.50 percentage points for men and 0.17 percentage points for women. This effect is larger for white men with less than a BA (0.70 percentage points) and largest for minority men with less than a BA (1.01 percentage points). Geography is an obstacle to giving a causal interpretation to these results, especially since they were estimated in the midst of a large recession and recovery that generated considerable cross-sectional variation in local economic performance. We show that our results are not sensitive to most approaches to controlling for places experiencing either contemporaneous labor market shocks or persistently weak labor market conditions. We also present evidence on reverse causality, finding that a short-term unemployment shock did not increase the share of people abusing prescription opioids. Our estimates imply that prescription opioids can account for 44 percent of the realized national decrease in men’s labor force participation between 2001 and 2015.   Read More

  • WP 19-05 | The Unintended Consequences of Employer Credit Check Bans for Labor Markets

    Kristle Cortés Andrew Glover Murat Tasci


    Over the last decade, 11 states have restricted employers’ access to the credit reports of job applicants. We document a significant decline in county-level vacancies after these laws were enacted: Job postings fall by 5.5 percent in affected occupations relative to exempt occupations in the same county and the same occupation nationwide. Cross-sectional heterogeneity in the estimated effects suggests that employers use credit reports as signals: Vacancies fall more in counties with a large share of subprime residents, while they fall less in occupations with other commonly available signals.   Read More

  • WP 19-03 | Firm Entry and Exit and Aggregate Growth

    Jose Asturias Sewon Hur Timothy Kehoe Kim Ruhl


    Applying the Foster, Haltiwanger, and Krizan (FHK) (2001) decomposition to plant-level manufacturing data from Chile and Korea, we find that the entry and exit of plants account for a larger fraction of aggregate productivity growth during periods of fast GDP growth. Studies of other countries confirm this empirical relationship. To analyze this relationship, we develop a simple model of firm entry and exit based on Hopenhayn (1992) in which there are analytical expressions for the FHK decomposition. When we introduce reforms that reduce entry costs or reduce barriers to technology adoption into a calibrated model, we find that the entry and exit terms in the FHK decomposition become more important as GDP grows rapidly, just as they do in the data from Chile and Korea.   Read More

  • WP 19-04 | Job Heterogeneity and Aggregate Labor Market Fluctuations

    Pawel Krolikowski


    This paper disciplines a model with search over match quality using microeconomic evidence on worker mobility patterns and wage dynamics. In addition to capturing these individual data, the model provides an explanation for aggregate labor market patterns. Poor match quality among first jobs implies large fluctuations in unemployment due to a responsive job destruction margin. Endogenous job destruction generates a burst of layoffs at the onset of a recession and, together with on-the-job search, generates a negative comovement between unemployment and vacancies. A significant job ladder, consistent with the empirical wage dispersion, provides ample scope for the propagation of vacancies and unemployment.   Read More

  • WP 19-02 | Can Landlords Be Paid to Stop Avoiding Voucher Tenants?

    Dionissi Aliprantis Hal Martin David Phillips


    Despite being eligible for use in any neighborhood, housing choice vouchers tend to be redeemed in low-opportunity neighborhoods. This paper investigates whether landlord behavior contributes to this outcome by studying the recent expansion of neighborhood-based voucher limits in Washington, DC. We conduct two waves of a correspondence experiment: one before and one after the expansion. Landlords heavily penalize tenants who indicate a desire to pay by voucher. The voucher penalty is larger in high-rent neighborhoods, pushing voucher tenants to low-rent neighborhoods. We find no evidence that indexing rents to small areas affects landlord acceptance of voucher tenants. The data can reject the claim that increasing rent limits by less than $3,000 per month can eliminate the voucher penalty. Neighborhood rent limits do shift lease-up locations toward high-rent neighborhoods in the year after the policy change, an effect that is large relative to the number of voucher households that move but small relative to all voucher tenants.   Read More

  • WP 19-01 | Causal Impact of Risk Oversight Functions on Bank Risk: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

    Lakshmi Balasubramanyan Naveen Daniel Joseph G. Haubrich Lalitha Naveen


    Our goal is to document the causal impact of having a board-level risk committee (RC) and a management-level executive designated as chief risk officer (CRO) on bank risk. The Dodd Frank Act requires bank holding companies with over $10 billion of assets to have an RC, while those with over $50 billion of assets are additionally required to have a CRO to oversee risk management. The innovation that allows us to document a causal impact is our research design. First, we use the passage of the Dodd Frank Act as a natural experiment that forced noncompliant firms to adopt an RC and appoint a CRO. We adopt the difference-in-difference approach to estimate the change in risk following RC and CRO adoption. Second, we use the regression discontinuity approach centered on the $10 billion and $50 billion thresholds whereby firms that were just below the threshold were not required by the law to install an RC and to recruit a CRO, while those just above the thresholds had to comply with the regulation. Our contribution is to document that neither the RC nor the CRO have a causal impact on risk near these thresholds. However, we do find strong evidence of risk reduction following the passage of the law.   Read More

  • WP 18-16 | Technological Innovation in Mortgage Underwriting and the Growth in Credit: 1985-2015

    Christopher Foote Lara Loewenstein Paul Willen


    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 assessment 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 typically accepted. In this way, technology brought about an exogenous change in lending standards, which helped raise the homeownership rate and encourage the conversion of rental properties to owner-occupied ones, but did not have large effects on housing prices. Technological innovation in mortgage underwriting may have allowed the 2000s housing boom to grow, however, because it enhanced the ability of both borrowers and lenders to act on optimistic beliefs about future house-price growth.   Read More

  • WP 17-21R | Costly Information Intermediation as a Natural Monopoly

    Daniel Monte Roberto Pinheiro

    Original Paper: WP 17-21


    Many markets rely on information intermediation to sustain cooperation between large communities. We identify a key trade-off in costly information intermediation: intermediaries can create trust by incentivizing information exchange, but with too much information acquisition, intermediation becomes expensive, with a resulting high equilibrium default rate and a low fraction of agents buying this information. The particular pricing scheme and the competitive environment affect the direct and indirect costs of information transmission, represented by fees paid by consumers and the expected loss due to imperfect information, respectively. Moreover, we show that information trade has characteristics similar to a natural monopoly, where competition may be detrimental to efficiency either because of the duplication of direct costs or the slowing down of information spillovers. Finally, a social-welfare-maximizing policymaker optimally chooses a low information sampling frequency in order to maximize the number of partially informed agents. In other words, maximizing information spillovers, even at the cost of slow information accumulation, enhances welfare.   Read More

  • WP 18-15 | Understanding the Aspects of Federal Reserve Forward Guidance

    Kurt G. Lunsford


    This paper studies the effects of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) forward guidance language. I estimate two policy surprises at FOMC meetings: a change in the current federal funds rate and an orthogonal change in the expected path of the federal funds rate. From February 2000 to June 2003, the FOMC only gave forward guidance about risks to the economic outlook, and a surprise increase in the expected federal funds rate path had expansionary effects. This is consistent with models of central bank information effects, where a positive economic outlook causes private agents to revise up their expectations for the economy. From August 2003 to May 2006, the FOMC also gave forward guidance about policy inclinations, and a surprise increase in the federal funds rate path had contractionary effects. These results are consistent with standard macroeconomic models of forward guidance. Overall, the effects of forward guidance depend on the FOMC’s choice to use one or both of the economic-outlook and policy-inclination aspects of forward guidance.   Read More