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2018 Working Papers

  • 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

  • WP 18-14 | All Fluctuations Are Not Created Equal: The Differential Roles of Transitory versus Persistent Changes in Driving Historical Monetary Policy

    Richard Ashley Kwok Ping Tsang Randal J. Verbrugge


    The historical analysis of FOMC behavior using estimated simple policy rules requires the specification of either an estimated natural rate of unemployment or an output gap. But in the 1970s, neither output gap nor natural rate estimates appear to guide FOMC deliberations. This paper uses the data to identify the particular implicit unemployment rate gap (if any) that is consistent with FOMC behavior. While its ability appears to have improved over time, our results indicate that, both before the Volcker period and through the Bernanke period, the FOMC distinguished persistent movements in the unemployment rate from other movements; implicitly such movements were treated as an intermediate target, one that departs substantially from conventional estimates of the natural rate. We further investigate historical FOMC responses to inflation fluctuations. In this regard, FOMC behavior changed in the Volcker-Greenspan-Bernanke period: its response to the inflation rate became much stronger, and it focused more intensely on very persistent movements in this variable. Our results shed light on the “Great Inflation” experience of the 1970s, and are consistent with the view that political pressures effectively limited the FOMC response to the buildup of inflation. They also suggest new directions for DSGE modeling. Read More

  • WP 18-13 | A Closer Look at the Behavior of Uncertainty and Disagreement: Micro Evidence from the Euro Area

    Robert Rich Joseph Tracy


    This paper examines point and density forecasts of real GDP growth, inflation and unemployment from the European Central Bank’s Survey of Professional Forecasters. We present individual uncertainty measures and introduce individual point- and density-based measures of disagreement. The data indicate substantial heterogeneity and persistence in respondents’ uncertainty and disagreement, with uncertainty associated with prominent respondent effects and disagreement associated with prominent time effects. We also examine the co-movement between uncertainty and disagreement and find an economically insignificant relationship that is robust to changes in the volatility of the forecasting environment. This provides further evidence that disagreement is not a reliable proxy for uncertainty. Read More

  • WP 18-12 | Inflation, Debt, and Default

    Sewon Hur Illenin Kondo Fabrizio Perri


    We study how the co-movement of inflation and economic activity affects real interest rates and the likelihood of debt crises. First, we show that for advanced economies, periods with procyclical inflation are associated with lower real interest rates. Procyclical inflation implies that nominal bonds pay out more in bad times, making them a good hedge against aggregate risk. However, such procyclicality also increases sovereign default risk when the economy deteriorates, since the government needs to make larger (real) payments. In order to evaluate both effects, we develop a model of sovereign default on domestic nominal debt with exogenous inflation risk and domestic risk-averse lenders. Countercyclical inflation is a substitute with default, while procyclical inflation is a complement with it, by increasing default incentives. In good times, when default is unlikely, procyclical inflation yields lower real rates. In bad times, as default becomes more material, procyclical inflation can magnify default risk and trigger an increase in real rates. Read More

  • WP 18-11 | A Class of Time-Varying Parameter Structural VARs for Inference under Exact or Set Identification

    Mark Bognanni


    This paper develops a new class of structural vector autoregressions (SVARs) with time-varying parameters, which I call a drifting SVAR (DSVAR). The DSVAR is the first structural time-varying parameter model to allow for internally consistent probabilistic inference under exact—or set—identification, nesting the widely used SVAR framework as a special case. I prove that the DSVAR implies a reduced-form representation, from which structural inference can proceed similarly to the widely used two-step approach for SVARs: beginning with estimation of a reduced form and then choosing among observationally equivalent candidate structural parameters via the imposition of identifying restrictions. In a special case, the implied reduced form is a tractable known model for which I provide the first algorithm for Bayesian estimation of all free parameters. I demonstrate the framework in the context of Baumeister and Peersman’s (2013b) work on time variation in the elasticity of oil demand. Read More

  • WP 16-35R | Goods-Market Frictions and International Trade

    Pawel Krolikowski Andrew McCallum

    Original Paper: WP 16-35


    We add goods-market frictions to a general equilibrium dynamic model with heterogeneous exporting producers and identical importing retailers. Our tractable framework leads to endogenously unmatched producers, which attenuate welfare responses to foreign shocks but increase the trade elasticity relative to a model without search costs. Search frictions are quantitatively important in our calibration, attenuating welfare responses to tariffs by 40 percent and increasing the trade elasticity by 50 percent. Eliminating search costs raises welfare by 1 percent and increasing them by only a few dollars has the same effects on welfare and trade flows as a 10 percent tariff. Read More

  • WP 16-10R | Rival Growth Prospects and Equity Prices: Evidence from Mass Layoff Announcements

    Adam Bordeman Bharadwaj Kannan Roberto Pinheiro

    Original Paper: WP 16-10


    We investigate the impact of mass layoff announcements on the equity value of industry rivals. When a layoff announcement conveys good (bad) news for the announcer, rivals on average witness a 0.44 percent increase (0.60 percent decrease) in cumulative abnormal stock returns. This effect is concentrated on rivals with high growth opportunities. Consistent with this finding, we also show that our results are strongest in technology industries, where growth opportunities matter the most. Our results suggest that investors perceive layoff announcements as news about industry prospects rather than just the announcer. Read More

  • WP 18-10 | Liquidity Requirements and the Interbank Loan Market: An Experimental Investigation

    Douglas Davis Oleg Korenok John Lightle Edward S. Prescott


    We develop a stylized interbank market environment and use it to evaluate with experimental methods the effects of liquidity requirements. Baseline and liquidity-regulated regimes are analyzed in a simple shock environment, which features a single idiosyncratic shock, and in a compound shock environment, in which the idiosyncratic shock is followed by a randomly occurring second-stage shock. Interbank trading of the illiquid asset follows each shock. In the simple shock environment, we find that liquidity regulations reduce the incidence of bankruptcies, but at a large loss of investment efficiency. In the compound shock environment, liquidity regulations not only impose a loss of investment efficiency but also fail to reduce bankruptcies. Read More

  • WP 16-13R | Information Production, Misconduct Effort, and the Duration of Financial Misrepresentation

    Jonathan Black Mattias Nilsson Roberto Pinheiro Maximiliano da Silva

    Original Paper: WP 16-13


    We examine the link between information produced by auditors and analysts and fraud duration. Using a hazard model, we analyze misstatement periods related to SEC accounting and auditing enforcement releases (AAERs) between 1982 and 2012. Results suggest that misconduct is more likely to end just after firms announce an auditor switch or issue audited financial statements, particularly when the audit report contains explanatory language. Analyst following increases the fraud termination hazard. However, increases (decreases) in analyst coverage have a negative (positive) marginal impact on the termination hazard, suggesting that analysts signal whistleblowers with their choice to add or drop coverage. Finally, our results suggest that misconduct lasts longer when it is well planned, more complex, or involves more accrual manipulation. Taken together, our findings are consistent with auditors and analysts playing a key informational role in fraud detection, while managerial effort to conceal misconduct significantly extends its duration. Read More

  • WP 18-09 | Combining Survey Long-Run Forecasts and Nowcasts with BVAR Forecasts Using Relative Entropy

    Ellis W. Tallman Saeed Zaman


    This paper constructs hybrid forecasts that combine both short- and long-term conditioning information from external surveys with forecasts from a standard fixed-coefficient vector autoregression (VAR) model. Specifically, we use relative entropy to tilt one-step ahead and long-horizon VAR forecasts to match the nowcast and long-horizon forecast from the Survey of Professional Forecasters. The results indicate meaningful gains in multi-horizon forecast accuracy relative to model forecasts that do not incorporate long-term survey conditions. The accuracy gains are achieved for a range of variables, including those that are not directly tilted but are affected through spillover effects from tilted variables. The forecast accuracy gains for inflation are substantial, statistically significant, and are competitive with the forecast accuracy from both time-varying VARs and univariate benchmarks. We view our proposal as an indirect approach to accommodating structural change and moving end points. Read More

  • WP 18-08 | Can Wealth Explain Neighborhood Sorting by Race and Income?

    Dionissi Aliprantis Daniel R. Carroll Eric Young


    Why do high-income blacks live in neighborhoods with characteristics similar to those of low-income whites? One plausible explanation is wealth, since homeownership requires some wealth, and black households hold less wealth than white households at all levels of income. We present evidence against this hypothesis by showing that wealth does not predict sorting into neighborhood quality once race and income are taken into account. An alternative explanation is that the scarcity of high-quality black neighborhoods increases the cost of living in a high-quality neighborhood for black households with even weak race preferences. We present evidence in favor of this hypothesis by showing that sorting into neighborhood racial composition is similar across wealth levels conditional on race and income. Read More

  • WP 18-07 | Opioids and the Labor Market (2018 version)

    Dionissi Aliprantis Mark E. Schweitzer


    This paper finds evidence that opioid availability decreases labor force participation while a large labor market shock does not influence the share of opioid abusers. We first identify the effect of availability on participation using the geographic variation in opioid prescription rates. We use a combination of the American Community Survey (ACS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) county-level prescription data to examine labor market patterns across both rural and metropolitan areas of the United States from 2007 to 2016. Individuals in areas with higher prescription rates are less likely to participate after accounting for standard demographic factors and regional controls. This relationship remains significant for important demographic groups when increasingly strong panel data controls, including a full set of geographic fixed effects and measures of local labor market conditions in 2000, are introduced to the regressions. We also investigate the possibility of reverse causality, using the Great Recession as an instrument to identify the effect of weak labor demand on opioid abuse. The share abusing opioids did not increase after the onset of the Great Recession. The evidence on the frequency of abuse is more ambiguous since the identified increases could be the continuation of a pre-trend. Read More

  • WP 18-06 | The Impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Local Home Values

    Hal Martin


    This paper simulates changes to neighborhood home prices resulting from reforms to tax preferences in the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The simulation uses federal tax data summarized at a fine geography to impute homeowner rents at the zip code level across six income classes. Employing a user cost framework, I model rents as a function of prices under the old tax law and under the TCJA. While the average price impact of the TCJA is found to be −5.7 percent, local effects range from 0 to −23 percent across zip codes. Variation across income class is also large. Simulations by income class suggest that the most severe declines in price occur for upper middle-income households ($100,000–$200,000). The paper also simulates partial versions of the TCJA that omit different features of the law that affect housing preference. I find that the higher standard deductions in the new law are the largest driver of price declines. Read More

  • WP 17-15R | Modeling Time-Varying Uncertainty of Multiple-Horizon Forecast Errors

    Todd E. Clark Michael McCracken Elmar Mertens

    Original Paper: WP 17-15


    We estimate uncertainty measures for point forecasts obtained from survey data, pooling information embedded in observed forecast errors for different forecast horizons. To track time-varying uncertainty in the associated forecast errors, we derive a multiple-horizon specification of stochastic volatility. We apply our method to forecasts for various macroeconomic variables from the Survey of Professional Forecasters. Compared to constant variance approaches, our stochastic volatility model improves the accuracy of uncertainty measures for survey forecasts. Our method can also be applied to other surveys like the Blue Chip Consensus, or the Federal Open Market Committee’s Summary of Economic Projections. Read More

  • WP 18-05 | Endogenous Uncertainty

    Andrea Carriero Todd E. Clark Massimiliano Marcellino


    We show that macroeconomic uncertainty can be considered as exogenous when assessing its effects on the U.S. economy. Instead, financial uncertainty can at least in part arise as an endogenous response to some macroeconomic developments, and overlooking this channel leads to distortions in the estimated effects of financial uncertainty shocks on the economy. We obtain these empirical findings with an econometric model that simultaneously allows for contemporaneous effects of both uncertainty shocks on economic variables and of economic shocks on uncertainty. While the traditional econometric approaches do not allow us to simultaneously identify both of these transmission channels, we achieve identification by exploiting the heteroskedasticity of macroeconomic data. Methodologically, we develop a structural VAR with time-varying volatility in which one of the variables (the uncertainty measure) impacts both the mean and the variance of the other variables. We provide conditional posterior distributions for this model, which is a substantial extension of the popular leverage model of Jacquier, Polson, and Rossi (2004), and provide an MCMC algorithm for estimation. Read More

  • WP 18-04 | Internal Migration in the United States: A Comparative Assessment of the Utility of the Consumer Credit Panel

    Jack DeWaard Janna E. Johnson Stephan D. Whitaker


    This paper demonstrates that credit bureau data, such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax (CCP), can be used to study internal migration in the United States. It is comparable to, and in some ways superior to, the standard data used to study migration, including the American Community Survey (ACS), the Current Population Survey (CPS), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) county-to-county migration data. CCP-based estimates of migration intensity, connectivity, and spatial focusing are similar to estimates derived from the ACS, CPS, and IRS data. The CCP can measure block-to-block migration and it is available at quarterly rather than annual frequencies. Migrants’ precise origins are not available in public versions of the ACS, CPS, or IRS data. We report measures of migration from the CCP data at finer geographies and time intervals. Finally, we disaggregate migration flows into first-, second-, and higher-order moves. Individual-level panels in the CCP make this possible, giving the CCP an additional advantage over the ACS, CPS, or publicly available IRS data. Read More

  • WP 18-03 | Assessing International Commonality in Macroeconomic Uncertainty and Its Effects

    Andrea Carriero Todd E. Clark Massimiliano Marcellino


    This paper uses a large vector autoregression (VAR) to measure international macroeconomic uncertainty and its effects on major economies, using two datasets, one with GDP growth rates for 19 industrialized countries and the other with a larger set of macroeconomic indicators for the U.S., euro area, and U.K. Using basic factor model diagnostics, we first provide evidence of significant commonality in international macroeconomic volatility, with one common factor accounting for strong comovement across economies and variables. We then turn to measuring uncertainty and its effects with a large VAR in which the error volatilities evolve over time according to a factor structure. The volatility of each variable in the system reflects time-varying common (global) components and idiosyncratic components. In this model, global uncertainty is allowed to contemporaneously affect the macroeconomies of the included nations—both the levels and volatilities of the included variables. In this setup, uncertainty and its effects are estimated in a single step within the same model. Our estimates yield new measures of international macroeconomic uncertainty, and indicate that uncertainty shocks (surprise increases) lower GDP and many of its components, adversely affect labor market conditions, lower stock prices, and in some economies lead to an easing of monetary policy. Read More

  • WP 18-02 | Stress Tests and Small Business Lending

    Kristle Cortés Yuliya Demyanyk Lei Li Elena Loutskina Phillip Strahan


    Post-crisis stress tests have altered banks’ credit supply to small business. Banks affected by stress tests reduce credit supply and raise interest rates on small business loans. Banks price the implied increase in capital requirements from stress tests where they have local knowledge, and exit markets where they do not, as quantities fall most in markets where stress-tested banks do not own branches near borrowers, and prices rise mainly where they do. These reductions in supply are concentrated among risky borrowers. Stress tests do not, however, reduce aggregate credit. Small banks increase their share in geographies formerly reliant on stress-tested lenders. Read More

  • WP 15-04R | How Cyclical Is Bank Capital?

    Joseph G. Haubrich

    Original Paper: WP 15-04


    Using annual data since 1834 and quarterly data since 1959, I find a negative correlation between output and current and lagged values of the bank capital ratio, but a positive correlation with leading values, although except for the period since 1996 the numbers are mostly small and usually insignificant. The most significant correlations tend to reflect movements in bank assets, rather than capital itself, and although the pattern of aggregate correlations matches those of large banks, small banks show a different pattern, with strongly pro-cyclical capital ratios (counter-cyclical leverage). Read More

  • WP 18-01 | Hysteresis in Employment among Disadvantaged Workers

    Bruce Fallick Pawel Krolikowski


    We examine hysteresis in employment-to-population ratios among less-educated men using state-level data. Results from dynamic panel regressions indicate a moderate degree of hysteresis: The effects of past employment rates on subsequent employment rates can be substantial but essentially dissipate within three years. This finding is robust to a number of variations. We find no substantial asymmetry in the persistence of high vs. low employment rates. The cumulative effect of hysteresis in the business cycle surrounding the 2001 recession was mildly positive, while the effect in the cycle surrounding the 2008–09 recession was, through 2016, decidedly negative. Additional simulations suggest that the employment benefits of temporarily running a “high-pressure” economy are small. Read More

  • WP 16-25R2 | The Unintended Consequences of Employer Credit Check Bans on Labor and Credit Markets

    Kristle Cortés Andrew Glover Murat Tasci


    Since the Great Recession, 11 states have restricted employers' access to the credit reports of job applicants. We document that county-level vacancies decline between 9.5 percent and 12.4 percent after states enact these laws. Vacancies decline significantly in affected occupations but remain constant in those that are exempt, and the decline is larger in counties with many subprime residents. Furthermore, subprime borrowers fall behind on more debt payments and reduce credit inquiries postban. The evidence suggests that, counter to their intent, employer credit check bans disrupt labor and credit markets, especially for subprime workers. Read More