Has Income Inequality or Media Fragmentation Increased Political Polarization?
John V. Duca and Jason Saving
Abstract: The increasing polarization of Congressional voting patterns has been attributed to factors including generational shifts, economic conditions, increased media fragmentation, and greater income inequality. The first of these factors is difficult to test with time series data owing to the low frequency of generational shifts, while the tendency of business cycles to reverse suggests that economic cycles are unable to account for long-term shifts in polarization. This leaves two main possible long-run drivers: the increasingly fragmented state of American media as stressed by Prior (2005, 2007) and Duca and Saving (2012a), and increased income inequality, as emphasized by McCarty, Poole, and Rosenthal (2006, forthcoming) and Stiglitz (2012).

Using statistical techniques suitable for analyzing variables with shifting long-run averages we find evidence indicating that media fragmentation has played a more important role than inequality, at least as tracked by available data and measures. Periods when the share of Americans with access to cable or satellite TV has risen are followed by upward shifts in polarization. Furthermore, our results suggest that the polarization arising from media fragmentation or inequality may make it more difficult to achieve the political consensus needed to address major challenges, such as the long-run fiscal imbalances facing the United States.


Campbell and Cochrane meet Melino and Yang: Reverse Engineering the Surplus Ratio in a Mehra–Prescott Economy
Jim Dolmas
Abstract: The habit model of Campbell and Cochrane (1999) specifies a process for the 'surplus ratio'—the excess of consumption over habit, relative to consumption—rather than an evolution for the habit stock. It's not immediately apparent if their formulation can be accommodated within the Markov chain framework of Mehra and Prescott (1985). This note illustrates one way to create a Campbell and Cochrane-like model within the Mehra–Prescott framework. A consequence is that we can perform another sort of reverse-engineering exercize-we can calibrate the resulting model to match the stochastic discount factor derived in the Mehra–Prescott framework by Melino and Yang (2003). The Melino–Yang SDF, combined with Mehra and Prescott's consumption process, yields asset returns that exactly match the first and second moments of the data, as estimated by Mehra and Prescott.

A byproduct of the exercize is an equivalent (in terms of SDFs) representation of Campbell–Cochrane preferences as a state-dependent version of standard time-additively-separable, constant relative risk aversion preferences. When calibrated to exactly match the asset return data, both the utility discount factor and the coefficient of relative risk aversion vary with the Markov state. Not surprisingly, our Campbell–Cochrane preferences are equivalent to a state-dependent representation with strongly countercyclical risk aversion. Less expected is the equivalent utility discount factor-it is uniformly greater than one, and countercyclical. In their analysis, Melino and Yang ruled out state-dependent specifications where the utility discount factor exceeds one. Our model gives one plausible rationalization for such a specification.


Reentering Asset Poverty after an Exit: Evidence from the PSID
Tammy Leonard and Wenhua Di
Published as: Leonard, Tammy and Wenhua Di (2014), "Is Household Wealth Sustainable? An Examination of Asset Poverty Reentry After an Exit," Journal of Family and Economic Issues 35 (2): 131-144.
Abstract: In order to be successful at improving household's financial self‐sufficiency and stability, asset‐building policies must be designed to prevent households from falling back into asset poverty once they exit it. This paper uses the Panel Study of Income Dynamics data from 1994 to 2007 to analyze the influence of life events, demographics and financial behaviors on the duration out of asset poverty. We find evidence that suggests there are structural barriers to asset acquisition. Asset accumulation at levels equal to nine months worth of income at the income poverty level or greater is important for improving a family's odds of permanently escaping asset poverty. Additionally, minimizing debt and diversifying the asset portfolio to include more productive assets are important for maintaining assets. This paper provides some insights on policies to help individuals more successfully transition out of asset poverty.


PCE Inflation and Core Inflation
Julie K. Smith
Abstract: This paper investigates the forecasting accuracy of the trimmed mean inflation rate of the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) deflator. Earlier works have examined the forecasting ability of limited-influence estimators (trimmed means and the weighted median) of the Consumer Price Index but none have compared the weighted median and trimmed mean of the PCE. Also addressed is the systematic bias that appears due to the differences in the means of inflation measures over the sample. This paper supports earlier results that limited-influence estimators provide better forecasts of future inflation than does the popular measure of core inflation, PCE inflation minus food and energy; therefore, these limited-influence estimators are core inflation.


How Should Monetary Policy Respond to Changes in the Relative Price of Oil? Considering Supply and Demand Shocks
Michael Plante
Published as: Plante, Michael (2014), "How Should Monetary Policy Respond to Changes in the Relative Price of Oil? Considering Supply and Demand Shocks," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 44: 1-19.
Abstract: This paper examines optimal monetary policy in a New Keynesian model, where the relative price of oil is affected by exogenous supply shocks and a productivity-driven demand shock. When wages are flexible, stabilizing core inflation is optimal and the nominal rate rises (falls) in response to a demand (supply) shock. When both prices and wages are sticky, core inflation falls (rises) in response to the demand (supply) shock. Stabilizing CPI inflation generates small welfare losses only if the demand shock is the main driver of oil prices. Based on a VAR estimated using post-1986 data for the U.S., both shocks have had minimal impacts on core inflation. The federal funds rate rises in response to the demand shock but falls in response to the supply shock, consistent with the predictions of the theoretical model for a policy that stabilizes core inflation.


Time-Varying Oil Price Volatility and Macroeconomic Aggregates
Michael Plante and Nora Traum
Abstract: We illustrate the theoretical relation among output, consumption, investment, and oil price volatility in a real business-cycle model. The model incorporates demand for oil by a firm, as an intermediate input, and by a household, used in conjunction with a durable good. We estimate a stochastic volatility process for the real price of oil over the period 1986–2011 and utilize the estimated process in a nonlinear approximation of the model. For realistic calibrations, an increase in oil price volatility produces a temporary decrease in durable spending, while precautionary savings motives lead investment and real GDP to rise. Irreversible capital and durable investment decisions do not overturn this result.

Globalization Institute Working Papers

Globalization Institute No. 134

The Effect of Commodity Price Shocks on Underlying Inflation: The Role of Central Bank Credibility 
J. Scott Davis
Abstract: This paper seeks to document and explain the effect of a commodity price shock on underlying core inflation, and how that effect changes both across time and across countries. Impulse responses derived from a structural VAR model show that across many countries there was a break in the response of core inflation to a commodity price shock. In an earlier period, a shock to commodity prices would lead to a large and significant increase in core inflation, but in later periods, the effect was insignificant. To explain this, we construct a large-scale DSGE model with both headline and core inflation, and most significantly, a mechanism whereby fluctuations in inflation caused by purely transitory shocks can become incorporated into long-term inflation expectations. Inflation has a trend and a cyclical component. Private agents cannot distinguish between the two, so a cyclical fluctuation in inflation may be confused for a shift in the trend component. Bayesian estimation reveals that there was a change between the earlier and the later periods in the parameter that governs the anchoring of expectations. Impulse responses derived from simulations of the model show that this change in the effect of commodity prices on core inflation is driven by the change in the anchoring of inflation expectations.

Globalization Institute No. 132

IKEA: Product, Pricing, and Pass-Through 
Marianne Baxter and Anthony Landry
Abstract: With over 300 stores in 40 countries, IKEA is a major international presence in retail housewares and furnishings. IKEA publishes country-specific catalogs with local-currency prices guaranteed to hold for 1 year. This paper explores a new dataset of IKEA products and catalog prices covering six countries for the time period 1994–2010. The dataset, with over 140,000 observations, is uniquely poised to shed light on the way in which a large multinational retailer operates in a setting characterized by a very large number of goods, distributed and priced in many countries. Thus, the goal of this paper is to document the choices made by IKEA in several related decision areas. In doing so, this paper provides evidence against which existing theories can be evaluated and revised in the light of this new information.

Globalization Institute No. 131

Core Import Price Inflation in the United States 
Janet Koech and Mark A. Wynne
Published as: Koech, Janet and Mark A. Wynne (2013), "Core Import Price Inflation in the United States," Open Economies Review 24 (4): 717-730. 
Abstract: The cross-section distribution of U.S. import prices exhibits some of the fat-tailed characteristics that are well documented for the cross-section distribution of U.S. consumer prices. This suggests that limited-influence estimators of core import price inflation might outperform headline or traditional measures of core import price inflation. We examine whether limited influence estimators of core import price inflation help forecast overall import price inflation. They do not. However, limited influence estimators of core import price inflation do seem to have some predictive power for headline consumer price inflation in the medium term.

Globalization Institute No. 129

Price Equalization Does Not Imply Free Trade 
Piyusha Mutreja, B. Ravikumar, Raymond Riezman and Michael Sposi
Published as: Mutreja, Piyusha, B. Ravikumar, Raymond Riezman and Michael Sposi (2015), "Price Equalization Does Not Imply Free Trade," Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Review 97 (4): 323-339. 
Published as: Mutreja, Piyusha, B. Ravikumar, Raymond Riezman and Michael Sposi (2014), "Price Equalization, Trade Flows, and Barriers to Trade," European Economic Review 70: 383-398. 
Abstract: In this paper we show that price equalization alone is not sufficient to establish that there are no barriers to international trade. There are many barrier combinations that deliver price equalization, but each combination implies a different volume of trade. Therefore, in order to make statements about trade barriers it is necessary to know the trade flows. We demonstrate this first theoretically in a simple two-country model. We then extend the result quantitatively to a multicountry model with two sectors. We show that for the case of capital goods trade, barriers have to be large in order to be consistent with the observed trade flows. Our model also implies that capital goods prices look similar across countries, an implication that is consistent with data. Zero barriers to trade in capital goods will deliver price equalization in capital goods, but cannot reproduce the observed trade flows in our model.

Globalization Institute No. 123

Global Slack as a Determinant of U.S. Inflation 
Enrique Martínez-García and Mark A. Wynne
Abstract: Resource utilization, or "slack," is widely held to be an important determinant of inflation dynamics. As the world has become more globalized in recent decades, some have argued that the concept of slack that is relevant is global rather than domestic (the "global slack hypothesis"). This line of argument is consistent with standard New Keynesian theory. However, the empirical evidence is fragile, at best, possibly because of a disconnect between empirical and theory-consistent measures of output gaps.

Globalization Institute No. 119

Modelling Global Trade Flows: Results from a GVAR Model 
Matthieu Bussière, Alexander Chudik and Giulia Sestieri
Abstract: This paper uses a Global Vector Auto-Regression (GVAR) model featuring 21 emerging market and advanced economies to investigate the factors behind the dynamics of global trade flows, with a particular view on the issue of global trade imbalances and on the conditions of their unwinding. The GVAR approach enables us to make two key contributions: first, to model international linkages among a large number of countries, which is a key asset given the diversity of countries and regions involved in global imbalances, and second, to model exports and imports jointly. The latter proves to be very important due to the internationalization of production chains. The model can be used to gauge the effect on trade flows of various scenarios, such as an output shock in the United States, a shock to the US real effective exchange rate and shocks to foreign (e.g., German and Chinese) variables. Results indicate that changes in domestic and foreign demand have a much stronger effect on trade flows than changes in relative trade prices. In addition, we show how the model can be used to monitor trade developments, with an application to the Great Trade Collapse.

Globalization Institute No. 117

Central Bank Credibility and the Persistence of Inflation and Inflation Expectations
J. Scott Davis
Abstract: This paper introduces a model where agents are unsure about the central bank's inflation target. They believe that the central bank's inflation target could lie between two extremes, and their beliefs vary depending on the central bank's stock of credibility. They form the expectations used in price and wage setting using this perceived inflation target, and they use past observations of inflation to update their beliefs about the credibility of the central bank. Thus a series of high inflation observations can lead them to believe (incorrectly) that the central bank has adopted a high target. High inflation expectations are incorporated into price and wage setting decisions, and a transitory shock to inflation can become very persistent. The model with endogenous credibility can match the volatility and persistence of both inflation and measures of long-term inflation expectations that we see in the data. The model is then calibrated to match the observed levels of Federal Reserve credibility in the 1980s and the 2000s. By simply changing the level of credibility, holding all else fixed, the model can explain nearly all of the observed changes in the volatility and persistence of inflation and inflation expectations in the U.S. from the 1980s to today.

Globalization Institute No. 114

Are Predictable Improvements in TFP Contractionary or Expansionary: Implications from Sectoral TFP?
Deokwoo Nam and Jian Wang
Published as: Nam, Deokwoo and Jian Wang (2014), "Are Predictable Improvements in TFP Contractionary or Expansionary: Implications from Sectoral TFP?" Economics Letters 124 (2): 171-175. 
Abstract: We document in the US data: (1) The dominant predictable component of investment-sector TFP is its long-run movements, and a favorable shock to predictable changes in investmentsector TFP induces a broad economic boom that leads actual increases in investment-sector TFP by almost two years, and (2) predictable changes in consumption-sector TFP occur mainly at short forecast horizons, and a favorable shock to such predictable changes leads to immediate reductions in hours worked, investment, and output as well as an immediate rise in consumption-sector TFP. We argue that these documented differences in the responses to shocks to predictable sectoral TFP changes can reconcile the seemingly contradictory findings in Beaudry and Portier (2006) and Barsky and Sims (2011), whose analyses are based on aggregate TFP measures. In addition, we find that shocks to predictable changes in investment-sector TFP account for 50% of business cycle fluctuations in consumption, hours, investment, and output, while shocks to predictable changes in consumption-sector TFP explain only a small fraction of business cycle fluctuations of these aggregate variables.

Globalization Institute No. 112

A Simple Model of Price Dispersion
Alexander Chudik
Published as: Chudik, Alexander (2012), "A Simple Model of Price Dispersion," Economics Letters 117 (1): 344-347. 
Abstract: This article considers a simple stock-flow matching model with fully informed market participants. Unlike in the standard matching literature, prices are assumed to be set ex-ante. When sellers pre-commit themselves to sell their products at an advertised price, the unique equilibrium is characterized by price dispersion due to the idiosyncratic match payoffs (in a marketplace with full information). This provides new insights into the price dispersion literature, where price dispersion is commonly assumed to be generated by a costly search of uninformed buyers.

Globalization Institute No. 111

The Perils of Aggregating Foreign Variables in Panel Data Models
Michele Ca' Zorzi, Alexander Chudik and Alistair Dieppe
Abstract: The curse of dimensionality refers to the difficulty of including all relevant variables in empirical applications due to the lack of sufficient degrees of freedom. A common solution to alleviate the problem in the context of open economy models is to aggregate foreign variables by constructing trade-weighted cross-sectional averages. This paper provides two key contributions in the context of static panel data models. The first is to show under what conditions the aggregation of foreign variables (AFV) leads to consistent estimates (as the time dimension T is fixed and the cross section dimension N → ∞). The second is to design a formal test to assess the admissibility of the AFV restriction and to evaluate the small sample properties of the test by undertaking Monte Carlo experiments. Finally, we illustrate an application in the context of the current account empirical literature where the AFV restriction is rejected.

Globalization Institute No. 108

Accounting for Real Exchange Rates Using Micro-Data
Mario J. Crucini and Anthony Landry
Abstract: The classical dichotomy predicts that all of the time series variance in the aggregate real exchange rate is accounted for by nontraded goods in the CPI basket because traded goods obey the Law of One Price. In stark contrast, Engel (1999) found that traded goods had comparable volatility to the aggregate real exchange. Our work reconciles these two views by successfully applying the classical dichotomy at the level of intermediate inputs into the production of final goods using highly disaggregated retail price data. Since the typical good found in the CPI basket is about equal parts traded and nontraded inputs, we conclude that the classical dichotomy applied to intermediate inputs restores its conceptual value.

Globalization Institute No. 107

Liquidity, Risk and the Global Transmission of the 2007–08 Financial Crisis and the 2010–11 Sovereign Debt Crisis
Alexander Chudik and Marcel Fratzscher
Abstract: The paper analyses the transmission of liquidity shocks and risk shocks to global financial markets. Using a Global VAR methodology, the findings reveal fundamental differences in the transmission strength and pattern between the 2007–08 financial crisis and the 2010–11 sovereign debt crisis. Unlike in the former crisis, emerging market economies have become much more resilient to adverse shocks in 2010–11. Moreover, a fight-to-safety phenomenon across asset classes has become particularly strong during the 2010–11 sovereign debt crisis, with risk shocks driving down bond yields in key advanced economies. The paper relates this evolving transmission pattern to portfolio choice decisions by investors and finds that countries' sovereign rating, quality of institutions and their financial exposure are determinants of cross-country differences in the transmission.

Globalization Institute No. 105

Bayesian Estimation of NOEM Models: Identification and Inference in Small Samples
Enrique Martínez-García, Diego Vilán and Mark Wynne
Published as: Martínez-García, Enrique, Diego Vilán and Mark A. Wynne (2012), "Bayesian Estimation of NOEM Models: Identification and Inference in Small Samples," in DSGE Models in Macroeconomics: Estimation, Evaluation, and New Development, ed. Nathan Balke, Fabio Canova, Fabio Milani and Mark A. Wynne (Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing Limited), 137-199. 
Abstract: The global slack hypothesis (e.g., Martínez-García and Wynne [2010]) is central to the discussion of the trade-offs monetary policy faces in an increasingly more open world economy. Open-Economy (forward-looking) New Keynesian Phillips curves describe how expected future inflation and a measure of global output gap (global slack) affect the current inflation rate. This paper studies the (potential) weak identification of these relationships in the context of a fully specified structural model using Bayesian estimation techniques. We trace the problems to sample size, rather than misspecification bias. We conclude that standard macroeconomic time series with a coverage of less than forty years are subject to potentially serious identification issues, and also to model selection errors. We recommend estimation with simulated data prior to bringing the model to the actual data as a way of detecting parameters that are susceptible to weak identification in short samples.