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Working Papers

Working Papers

  • WP 18-07R2 | Opioids and the Labor Market

    Dionissi Aliprantis Kyle Fee Mark E. Schweitzer

    Original Paper: WP 18-07R


    This paper studies the relationship between local opioid prescription rates and labor market outcomes for prime-age men and women between 2006 and 2016. We estimate the relationship at the most disaggregated level feasible in the American Community Survey in order to provide estimates that include rural areas that have, in some cases, seen particularly high prescription rates. Given the limited time period, it is particularly important to account for geographic variation in both short-term and long-term economic conditions. We estimate three panel models to control for evolving local economic conditions: a difference-in-differences specification, a specification with specific controls for economic conditions, and a model that focuses on a comparison group of place with similar performance in 2000. These modelling approaches find a range of statistically significant and economically substantial results for both prime-age men and women. For example, we find that a 10 percent higher local prescription rate is associated with a decrease in the prime-age labor force participation rate of between 0.15 and 0.47 percentage points for men and between 0.15 and 0.19 percentage points for women, depending on the control strategy. We also estimate effects for narrower demographic groups and find substantially larger estimates for some groups, notably for white and minority men with less than a BA. We also present evidence on reverse causality. We show that a short-term unemployment shock did not increase the share of people misusing prescription opioids and that prescription levels vary substantially within quintiles of longer-term labor market performance. Our estimates are generally robust to estimation within those quintiles of 2000 labor market performance. These results argue against theories of reverse causation that rely on prescriptions rates being higher in labor markets that were already weaker.   Read More

  • WP 19-25 | The Propagation of Monetary Policy Shocks in a Heterogeneous Production Economy

    Ernesto Pasten Raphael Schoenle Michael Weber


    Realistic heterogeneity in price rigidity interacts with heterogeneity in sectoral size and input-output linkages in the transmission of monetary policy shocks. Quantitatively, heterogeneity in price stickiness is the central driver for real effects. Input-output linkages and consumption shares alter the identity of the most important sectors to the transmission. Reducing the number of sectors decreases monetary non-neutrality with a similar impact response of inflation. Hence, the initial response of inflation to monetary shocks is not sufficient to discriminate across models and ignoring heterogeneous consumption shares and input-output linkages identifies the wrong sectors from which the real effects originate.   Read More

  • WP 19-24 | The Effects of Price Endings on Price Rigidity: Evidence from VAT Changes

    Edward S. Knotek II Doron Sayag Avichai Snir


    We document a causal role for price endings in generating micro and macro price rigidity. Based on micro price data underlying the consumer price index in Israel, we document that most stores have a favored price ending—a final digit, usually a zero or nine, used by a majority of prices in that store—and that these favored price endings are utilized extensively. Using changes to the VAT rate as exogenous cost shocks that affect prices regardless of ending, we find that the frequency of price adjustment for nonfavored endings increases by twice as much as the frequency of adjustment for favored endings in months when the VAT rate changes. In the aggregate, sluggish pass-through of VAT rate changes is due to favored endings; changes in the VAT rate are passed through fully and immediately to nonfavored endings. Keywords: sticky prices, favored price endings, zero-ending prices, nine-ending prices, pass-through.   Read More

  • WP 19-23 | The Roles of Price Points and Menu Costs in Price Rigidity

    Edward S. Knotek II


    Macroeconomic models often generate nominal price rigidity via menu costs. This paper provides empirical evidence that treating menu costs as a structural explanation for sticky prices may be spurious. Using scanner data, I note two empirical facts: (1) price points, embodied in nine-ending prices, account for approximately two-thirds of prices; and (2) at the conclusion of sales, post-sale prices return to their pre-sale levels more than three-fourths of the time. I construct a model that nests roles for menu costs and price points and estimate model variants. Excluding the two facts yields a statistically and economically significant role for menu costs in generating price rigidity. Incorporating the two facts yields an incentive to set nine-ending prices two orders of magnitude larger than the menu costs. In this setting, the price point model can match the two stylized facts, but menu costs are effectively irrelevant as a source of price rigidity. The choice of a mechanism for price rigidity matters for aggregate dynamics.   Read More

  • WP 19-20 | Banker Compensation, Relative Performance, and Bank Risk

    Edward S. Prescott Arantxa Jarque


    A multi-agent, moral-hazard model of a bank operating under deposit insurance and limited liability is used to analyze the connection between compensation of bank employees (below CEO) and bank risk. Limited liability with deposit insurance is a force that distorts effort down. However, the need to increase compensation to risk-averse employees in order to compensate them for extra bank risk is a force that reduces this effect. Optimal contracts use relative performance and are implementable as a wage with bonuses tied to individual and firm performance. The connection between pay for performance and bank risk depends on correlation of returns. If employee returns are uncorrelated, the form of pay is irrelevant for risk. If returns are perfectly correlated, a low wage can indicate risk. Connections to compensation regulation and characteristics of organizations are discussed.   Read More

  • WP 19-21 | Recreating Banking Networks under Decreasing Fixed Costs

    Dietmar Maringer Ben R. Craig Sandra Paterlini


    Theory emphasizes the central role of the structure of networks in the behavior of financial systems and their response to policy. Real-world networks, however, are rarely directly observable: Banks’ assets and liabilities are typically known, but not who is lending how much and to whom. We first show how to simulate realistic networks that are based on balance-sheet information by minimizing costs where there is a fixed cost to forming a link. Second, we also show how to do this for a model with fixed costs that are decreasing in the number of links. To approach the optimization problem, we develop a new algorithm based on the transportation planning literature. Computational experiments find that the resulting networks are not only consistent with the balance sheets, but also resemble real-world financial networks in their density (which is sparse but not minimally dense) and in their core-periphery and disassortative structure.   Read More

  • WP 19-22 | Forward Guidance under Imperfect Information: Instrument Based or State Contingent?

    Chengcheng Jia


    I study the optimal type of forward guidance in a flexible-price economy in which both the private sector and the central bank are subject to imperfect information about the aggregate state of the economy. In this case, forward guidance changes the private sector’s expectations about both future monetary policy and the state of the economy. I study two types of forward guidance. The first type is instrument based, in which case the central bank commits to a value of the policy instrument. The second type is state contingent, in which case the central bank reveals its imperfect information and commits to a policy response rule. The key message is that forward guidance allows the central bank to reduce ex-ante price fluctuations by making the optimal trade-off between price deviations after the actual shock and after the noise shock. However, this benefit comes with a cost under the instrument-based forward guidance; that is, since firms perfectly know the change in monetary policy and prices are fully flexible, the real output level becomes independent of monetary policy. Consequently, while state-contingent forward guidance guarantees ex-ante welfare improvement, instrument-based forward guidance improves ex-ante welfare only if the central bank’s information is sufficiently precise.   Read More

  • WP 19-19 | Cross-Sectional Patterns of Mortgage Debt during the Housing Boom: Evidence and Implications

    Christopher Foote Lara Loewenstein Paul Willen


    In this paper, we use two comprehensive micro datasets to study the evolution of the distribution of mortgage debt during the 2000s housing boom. We show that the allocation of mortgage debt remained stable, as did the distribution of real estate assets. We propose that any theory of the boom must replicate this fact. Using a general equilibrium model, we show that this requires two elements: (1) an exogenous shock to the economy that increases expected house price growth or, alternatively, reduces interest rates and (2) financial markets that endogenously relax constraints in response to the shock. The role played by subprime mortgage debt provides additional empirical evidence that this narrative mirrors reality.   Read More

  • WP 16-36R | Affirmative Action and Racial Segregation

    Peter L. Hinrichs


    Prior research suggests that statewide affirmative action bans reduce minority enrollment at selective colleges while leaving overall minority college enrollment unchanged. However, the effect of these bans on across-college racial segregation has not yet been estimated. This effect is theoretically ambiguous due to a U-shaped relationship across colleges between minority enrollment and college selectivity. This paper uses variation in the timing of affirmative action bans across states to estimate their effects on racial segregation as measured by standard exposure and dissimilarity indexes, finding that affirmative action bans have increased segregation across colleges in some cases but reduced it in others. In particular, early affirmative action bans in states with highly selective public universities appear to be associated with less segregation, whereas more recent affirmative action bans appear to be associated with more segregation.   Read More

  • WP 1808R | What Explains Neighborhood Sorting by Income and Race?

    Dionissi Aliprantis Daniel R. Carroll Eric Young

    Original Paper: WP 18-08


    Why do high-income black households live in neighborhoods with characteristics similar to those of low-income white households? We find that neighborhood sorting by income and race cannot be explained by financial constraints: High-income, high-wealth black households live in similar-quality neighborhoods as low-income, low-wealth white households. We provide evidence that black households sort across neighborhoods according to some non-pecuniary factor(s) correlated with the racial composition of neighborhoods. Black households sorting into black neighborhoods can explain the racial gap in neighborhood quality at all income levels. The supply of high-quality black neighborhoods drives the neighborhood quality of black households.   Read More