The Impact of Rising Oil Prices on U.S. Inflation and Inflation Expectations in 2020-23
Lutz Kilian and Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: Predictions of oil prices reaching $100 per barrel during the winter of 2021/22 have raised fears of persistently high inflation and rising inflation expectations for years to come. We show that these concerns have been overstated. A $100 oil scenario of the type discussed by many observers, would only briefly raise monthly headline inflation, before fading rather quickly. However, the short-run effects on headline inflation would be sizable. For example, on a year-over-year basis, headline PCE inflation would increase by 1.8 percentage points at the end of 2021 under this scenario, but only by 0.4 percentage points at the end of 2022. In contrast, the impact on measures of core inflation such as trimmed mean PCE inflation is only 0.4 and 0.3 percentage points in 2021 and 2022, respectively. These estimates already account for any increases in inflation expectations under the scenario. The peak response of the 1-year household inflation expectation would be 1.2 percentage points, while that of the 5-year expectation would be 0.2 percentage points.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2116


Empirical Bayes Control of the False Discovery Exceedance
Pallavi Basu, Luella Fu, Alessio Saretto and Wenguang Sun
Abstract: In sparse large-scale testing problems where the false discovery proportion (FDP) is highly variable, the false discovery exceedance (FDX) provides a valuable alternative to the widely used false discovery rate (FDR). We develop an empirical Bayes approach to controlling the FDX. We show that for independent hypotheses from a two-group model and dependent hypotheses from a Gaussian model fulfilling the exchangeability condition, an oracle decision rule based on ranking and thresholding the local false discovery rate (lfdr) is optimal in the sense that the power is maximized subject to FDX constraint. We propose a data-driven FDX procedure that emulates the oracle via carefully designed computational shortcuts. We investigate the empirical performance of the proposed method using simulations and illustrate the merits of FDX control through an application for identifying abnormal stock trading strategies.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2115

Globalization Institute No. 412

Monetary Policy Uncertainty and Economic Fluctuations at the Zero Lower Bound
Rachel Doehr and Enrique Martínez-García
Abstract: We propose a TVP-VAR with stochastic volatility for the unemployment rate, core inflation and the federal funds rate augmented with survey-based interest rate expectations and uncertainty and a FAVAR with a wider set of observable variables and alternative monetary policy measures in order to explore U.S. monetary policy, accounting for the zero lower bound. We find that a rise in monetary policy uncertainty increases unemployment and lowers core inflation; the effects on unemployment in particular are robust (a gradual 0.4 percentage point increase), lasting more than two years after the initial shock. Interest rate uncertainty shocks explain a significant portion of macro fluctuations, particularly after the 2007-09 global financial crisis contributing to push the unemployment rate one percentage point higher during the early phase of the subsequent recovery. Furthermore, we find that higher interest rate uncertainty makes forward guidance shocks (but also federal funds rate shocks) less effective at moving unemployment and core inflation. We also posit a theoretical model to provide the structural backbone for our empirical results, via an “option value” channel. Theory yields sizeable real effects and a muted monetary policy transmission mechanism as firms choose to postpone investment decisions in response to heightened interest rate uncertainty.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp412


Wealth Inequality and Return Heterogeneity During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Katya Kartashova and Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: Wealth inequality in the U.S., measured by the top 1% wealth share, experienced dramatic changes in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Economic theory suggests that the key to understanding wealth inequality is heterogeneity in the return to net worth across households. To understand the dynamics of wealth inequality during the COVID-19 pandemic, we develop a novel methodology that allows us to estimate the returns to net worth for different groups of households at relatively high frequency. We show that portfolio heterogeneity and asset price movements are the main determinants of wealth returns and inequality, whereas saving-rate heterogeneity and within-class return differences played a minor role. As the stock market continued to outperform the housing market, the return of the wealthy has risen faster than that of other households, reinforcing the wealth concentration at the top. We also document a widening racial return gap between white and black households later in the pandemic. Nearly all of the racial differences in the wealth return, however, are explained by the differences in wealth, not by race itself. Whereas the previous literature has evaluated return heterogeneity and its implications for long-run wealth inequality in low-frequency data, our analysis suggests that return heterogeneity together with large asset price movements is also key to understanding short-run dynamics in wealth inequality.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2114


Bargaining Under Liquidity Constraints: Nash vs. Kalai in the Laboratory
John Duffy, Lucie Lebeau and Daniela Puzzello
Abstract: We report on an experiment in which buyers and sellers engage in semi-structured bargaining in two dimensions: how much of a good the seller will produce and how much money the buyer will offer the seller in exchange. Our aim is to evaluate the empirical relevance of two axiomatic bargaining solutions, the generalized Nash bargaining solution and Kalai's proportional bargaining solution. These bargaining solutions predict different outcomes when buyers are constrained in their money holdings. We first use the case when the buyer is not liquidity constrained to estimate the bargaining power parameter, which we find to be equal to 1/2. Then, imposing liquidity constraints on buyers, we find strong evidence in support of the Kalai proportional solution and against the generalized Nash solution. Our findings have policy implications, e.g., for the welfare cost of inflation in search-theoretic models of money.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2113

Globalization Institute No. 411

Firm Entry and Exit and Aggregate Growth
Jose Asturias, Sewon Hur, Timothy J. Kehoe and Kim J. Ruhl
Abstract: 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. To analyze this relationship, we develop a model of firm entry and exit based on Hopenhayn (1992). 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.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp411


The Local Fiscal Multiplier of Intergovernmental Grants: Evidence from Federal Medicaid Assistance to States
Seth Giertz and Anil Kumar
Abstract: Advocates of Medicaid expansion argue that federal Medicaid assistance to states fosters economic activity, generating positive local multiplier effects. Furthermore, during economic downturns, Congress regularly tweaks federal match rates for state Medicaid spending – including during the COVID-19 public health emergency – in order to assist states. Despite heavy reliance on Medicaid funding formulas, identifying the economic effect of these federal transfers has proved challenging. This is because federal Medicaid assistance (to states) is endogenous, since funding levels are correlated with unobserved factors driving state economic activity. To address this concern, we construct an instrument based on a slope discontinuity in the federal matching rate for state Medicaid spending. Using state-level panel data from 1990 to 2013, we find that federal Medicaid assistance does stimulate economic activity, but the implied cost per job created is quite high and the multiplier is well below 1. Despite modest economic effects over the entire sample period, we find that federal Medicaid assistance provided powerful fiscal stimulus to states after the Great Recession when the implied multiplier shot up to 1.5.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2112

Globalization Institute No. 410

A Theory of the Global Financial Cycle
J. Scott Davis and Eric van Wincoop
Abstract: We develop a theory to account for changes in prices of risky and safe assets and gross and net capital flows over the global financial cycle (GFC). The multi-country model features global risk-aversion shocks and heterogeneity of investors both within and across countries. Within-country heterogeneity is needed to account for the drop in gross capital flows during a negative GFC shock (higher global risk-aversion). Cross-country heterogeneity is needed to account for the differential vulnerability of countries to a negative GFC shock. The key vulnerability is associated with leverage. In both the data and the theory, leveraged countries (net borrowers of safe assets) deleverage through negative net outflows of risky assets and positive net outflows of safe assets, experience a rise in the current account and a greater than average drop in risky asset prices. The opposite is the case for non-leveraged countries (net lenders of safe assets).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp410


Wage Setting Under Targeted Search
Anton Cheremukhin and Paulina Restrepo-Echavarria
Abstract: When setting initial compensation, some firms set a fixed, non-negotiable wage while others bargain. In this paper we propose a parsimonious search and matching model with two-sided heterogeneity, where the choice of wage-setting protocol, wages, search intensity and degree of randomness in matching are endogenous. We find that posting and bargaining coexist as wage-setting protocols if there is sufficient heterogeneity in match quality, search costs or market tightness and that labor market tightness and relative costs of search play a key role in the optimal choice of the wage-setting mechanism. Finally, we show that bargaining prevalence is positively correlated with wages, residual wage dispersion and labor market tightness, both in the model and in the data.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2111


Household Inflation Expectations and Consumer Spending: Evidence from Panel Data
Mary A. Burke and Ali Ozdagli
Abstract: Recent research offers mixed results concerning the relationship between inflation expectations and consumption, using qualitative measures of readiness to spend. We revisit this question using survey panel data of actual spending from the U.S. between 2009 and 2012 that also allows us to control for household heterogeneity. We find that durables spending increases with expected inflation only for selected types of households while nondurables spending does not respond to expected inflation. Moreover, spending decreases with expected unemployment. These results imply a limited stimulating effect of inflation expectations on aggregate consumption, which could be reversed if inflation and unemployment expectations move together.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2110


Countercyclical Fluctuations in Uncertainty are Endogenous
Joshua Bernstein, Michael Plante, Alexander W. Richter and Nathaniel A. Throckmorton
Abstract: This paper uses a battery of calibrated and estimated structural models to determine the causal drivers of the negative correlation between output and aggregate uncertainty. We find the transmission of uncertainty shocks to output is weak, while aggregate uncertainty endogenously responds to first moment shocks in the presence of labor market search frictions. This indicates that countercyclical movements in aggregate uncertainty are endogenous responses to changes in output, rather than exogenous impulses. A vector autoregression on simulated data shows recursive identification techniques do not robustly identify structural uncertainty shocks.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2109


Container Trade and the U.S. Recovery
Lutz Kilian, Nikos Nomikos and Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: Since the 1970s, exports and imports of manufactured goods have been the engine of international trade and much of that trade relies on container shipping. This paper introduces a new monthly index of the volume of container trade to and from North America. Incorporating this index into a structural macroeconomic VAR model facilitates the identification of shocks to domestic U.S. demand as well as foreign demand for U.S. manufactured goods. We show that, unlike in the Great Recession, the primary determinant of the U.S. economic contraction in early 2020 was a sharp drop in domestic demand. Although detrended data for personal consumption expenditures and manufacturing output suggest that the U.S. economy has recovered to near 90% of pre-pandemic levels as of March 2021, our structural VAR model shows that the component of manufacturing output driven by domestic demand had only recovered to 57% of pre-pandemic levels and that of real personal consumption only to 78%. The difference is mainly accounted for by unexpected reductions in frictions in the container shipping market.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2108

Globalization Institute No. 409

Pooled Bewley Estimator of Long-Run Relationships in Dynamic Heterogenous Panels
Alexander Chudik, M. Hashem Pesaran and Ron P. Smith
Abstract: This paper, using the Bewley (1979) transformation of the autoregressive distributed lag model, proposes a pooled Bewley (PB) estimator of long-run coefficients for dynamic panels with heterogeneous short-run dynamics, in the same setting as the widely used Pooled Mean Group (PMG) estimator. The Bewley transform enables us to obtain an analytical closed form expression for the PB, which is not available when using the maximum likelihood approach. This lets us establish asymptotic normality of PB as n,T→∞ jointly, allowing for applications with n and T large and of the same order of magnitude, but excluding panels where T is short relative to n. In contrast, asymptotic distribution of PMG estimator was obtained for n fixed and T→∞. Allowing for both n and T large seems to be the more relevant empirical setting, as revealed by numerous applications of the PMG estimator in the literature. Dynamic panel estimators are biased when T is not sufficiently large. Three bias corrections (simulation based, split-panel jackknife and a combined procedure) are investigated using Monte Carlo experiments, of which the combined procedure works best in reducing bias. In contrast to PMG, PB does not weight by estimated variances, which can make it more robust in small samples, though less efficient asymptotically. The PB estimator is illustrated with an application to the aggregate consumption function estimated in the original PMG paper.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp409
Supplement DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp409supp


Conspicuous Consumption: Vehicle Purchases by Non-Prime Consumers
Wenhua Di and Yichen Su
Abstract: Consumers with higher income often spend more on luxury goods. As a result, lower-income consumers who seek to increase their perceived income and social status may be motivated to purchase conspicuous luxury goods. Lower-income consumers may also desire to emulate the visible consumption displayed by their wealthier peers. Using a unique vehicle financing dataset, we find that consumers with lower credit scores value vehicle brand prestige more than average consumers. The stronger preferences for prestige lead non-prime consumers to purchase more expensive vehicles than they otherwise would have. We find evidence that the preferences for prestige are driven both by status signaling and peer emulation motives. Furthermore, we show that larger vehicle purchases financed by auto loans lead to worse loan performance and credit standing for non-prime consumers.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2107


Nonlinear Search and Matching Explained
Joshua Bernstein, Alexander W. Richter and Nathaniel Throckmorton
Abstract: Competing explanations for the sources of nonlinearity in search and matching models indicate that they are not fully understood. This paper derives an analytical solution to a textbook model that highlights the mechanisms that generate nonlinearity and quantifies their contributions. Procyclical variation in the matching elasticity creates nonlinearity in the job finding rate, which interacts with the law of motion for unemployment. These results show the matching function choice is not innocuous. Quantitatively, the Den Haan et al. (2000) matching function more than doubles the skewness of unemployment and welfare cost of business cycles, compared to the Cobb-Douglas specification.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2106


Paycheck Protection Program: County-Level Determinants and Effect on Unemployment
Pavel Kapinos
Abstract: This paper uses U.S. county-level data to study the determinants and effects of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The paper first overviews the timeline and institutional aspects of the PPP, implemented in the second quarter of 2020 and worth about $669 billion in forgivable small business loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA). It then studies the determinants of the county-level ratios of PPP loans per job lost during the original unemployment surge associated with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in late March 2020 and finds that it does not appear to be a major driver of the PPP loan concentration; instead, it was primarily driven by the local banking conditions and demographic factors. The second part of this paper uses the method of local projections to determine whether the participation in the PPP program improved economic conditions following its implementation. Impulse responses in the standard linear framework are positive and statistically significant, albeit economically negligible, suggesting that the PPP was entirely ineffective in stabilizing labor market conditions. Extending the framework to state-dependent local projections reverses this result: PPP lending had a significant effect on reducing unemployment on average and especially in counties with strong banking liquidity and an educated labor force.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2105

Globalization Institute No. 408

COVID-19 Fiscal Support and Its Effectiveness
Alexander Chudik, Kamiar Mohaddes and Mehdi Raissi
Abstract: This paper uses a threshold-augmented Global VAR model to quantify the macroeconomic effects of countries’ discretionary fiscal actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout. Our results are threefold: (1) fiscal policy is playing a key role in mitigating the effects of the pandemic; (2) all else equal, countries that implemented larger fiscal support are expected to experience less output contractions; (3) emerging markets are also benefiting from the synchronized fiscal actions globally through the spillover channel and reduced financial market volatility.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp408


How Foreign- and U.S.-Born Latinos Fare During Recessions and Recoveries
Pia M. Orrenius and Madeline Zavodny
Abstract: Latinos make up the nation’s largest ethnic minority group. The majority of Latinos are U.S. born, making the progress and well-being of Latinos no longer just a question of immigrant assimilation but also of the effectiveness of U.S. educational institutions and labor markets in equipping young Latinos to move out of the working class and into the middle class. One significant headwind to progress among Latinos is recessions. Economic outcomes of Latinos are far more sensitive to the business cycle than are outcomes for non-Hispanic whites. Latinos also have higher poverty rates than whites, although the gap had been falling prior to the pandemic. Deep holes in the pandemic safety net further imperiled Latino progress in 2020 and almost surely will in 2021 as well. Policies that would help working-class and poor Latinos include immigration reform and education reform and broader access to affordable health care.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2104

Globalization Institute No. 407

COVID-19 Time-Varying Reproduction Numbers Worldwide: An Empirical Analysis of Mandatory and Voluntary Social Distancing
Alexander Chudik, M. Hashem Pesaran and Alessandro Rebucci
Abstract: This paper estimates time-varying COVID-19 reproduction numbers worldwide solely based on the number of reported infected cases, allowing for under-reporting. Estimation is based on a moment condition that can be derived from an agent-based stochastic network model of COVID-19 transmission. The outcomes in terms of the reproduction number and the trajectory of per-capita cases through the end of 2020 are very diverse. The reproduction number depends on the transmission rate and the proportion of susceptible population, or the herd immunity effect. Changes in the transmission rate depend on changes in the behavior of the virus, reflecting mutations and vaccinations, and changes in people's behavior, reflecting voluntary or government mandated isolation. Over our sample period, neither mutation nor vaccination are major factors, so one can attribute variation in the transmission rate to variations in behavior. Evidence based on panel data models explaining transmission rates for nine European countries indicates that the diversity of outcomes resulted from the non-linear interaction of mandatory containment measures, voluntary precautionary isolation and the economic incentives that governments provided to support isolation. These effects are precisely estimated and robust to various assumptions. As a result, countries with seemingly different social distancing policies achieved quite similar outcomes in terms of the reproduction number. These results imply that ignoring the voluntary component of social distancing could introduce an upward bias in the estimates of the effects of lock-downs and support policies on the transmission rates.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp407


Mortgage Borrowing and the Boom-Bust Cycle in Consumption and Residential Investment
Xiaoqing Zhou
Abstract: This paper studies the transmission of the major shocks in the U.S. housing market in the 2000s to consumption and residential investment. Using geographically disaggregated data, I show that residential investment is more responsive to these shocks than consumption, as measured by elasticities and the implied contributions to GDP growth. I develop a structural life-cycle model featuring multiple types of housing investment to understand the large responses of residential investment. Consistent with the microdata, the model generates lumpy debt accumulation, lumpy housing investment and a strong correlation between mortgage borrowing and housing investment at the early stage of the life cycle. In the model, households move up the property ladder by increasing their mortgage debt after they have accumulated enough home equity. Since liquidity constraints and fixed costs prevent especially young homeowners from acquiring their desired home, shocks to their borrowing capacity have a large impact on residential investment.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2103


Dry Bulk Shipping and the Evolution of Maritime Transport Costs, 1850-2020
David S. Jacks and Martin Stuermer
Abstract: We provide evidence on the dynamic effects of fuel price shocks, shipping demand shocks and shipping supply shocks on real dry bulk freight rates in the long run. We first analyze a new and large dataset on dry bulk freight rates for the period from 1850 to 2020, finding that they followed a downward but undulating path with a cumulative decline of 79%. Next, we turn to understanding the drivers of booms and busts in the dry bulk shipping industry, finding that shipping demand shocks strongly dominate all others as drivers of real dry bulk freight rates in the long run. Furthermore, while shipping demand shocks have increased in importance over time, shipping supply shocks in particular have become less relevant.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2102

Globalization Institute No. 406

Optimal Bailouts in Banking and Sovereign Crises
Sewon Hur, César Sosa-Padilla and Zeynep Yom
Abstract: We study optimal bailout policies in the presence of banking and sovereign crises. First, we use European data to document that asset guarantees are the most prevalent way in which sovereigns intervene during banking crises. Then, we build a model of sovereign borrowing with limited commitment, where domestic banks hold government debt and also provide credit to the private sector. Shocks to bank capital can trigger banking crises, with government sometimes finding it optimal to extend guarantees over bank assets. This leads to a trade-off: Larger bailouts relax domestic financial frictions and increase output, but also imply increasing government fiscal needs and possible heightened default risk (i.e., they create a ‘diabolic loop’). We find that the optimal bailouts exhibit clear properties. Other things equal, the fraction of banking losses that the bailouts would cover is: (i) decreasing in the level of government debt; (ii) increasing in aggregate productivity; and (iii) increasing in the severity of the banking crisis. Even though bailouts mitigate the adverse effects of banking crises, we find that the economy is ex ante better off without bailouts: the ‘diabolic loop’ they create is too costly.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/gwp406


How the New Fed Municipal Bond Facility Capped Muni-Treasury Yield Spreads in the COVID-19 Recession
Michael D. Bordo and John V. Duca
Abstract: For over two centuries, the municipal bond market has been a source of systemic risk, which returned early in the COVID-19 downturn when borrowing from securities markets became costly for many private and public entities, and some found it difficult to borrow at all. Indeed, just before the Fed announced its unprecedented intervention into the municipal (muni) bond market, spreads of muni over Treasury yields rose in line with the unemployment rate and appeared headed to levels not seen since the Great Depression, when real municipal gross investment plunged 35 percent below 1929 levels. To prevent a repeat, the Fed created the Municipal Liquidity Facility (MLF) to purchase newly issued, (near) investment grade state and local government bonds at normal ratings-based interest rate spreads over Treasury bonds plus a fee of 100 basis points, later reduced to 50 basis points. Despite a modest take-up, the MLF has effectively capped muni spreads at near normal levels plus the Fed fee and limited the extent to which interest rate spreads could have amplified the impact of the COVID pandemic. To establish the MLF the Fed needed Treasury indemnification against default losses. There are concerns about whether the creation of the MLF could undermine the efficiency of the bond market if the facility lasts too long and could induce moral hazard among borrowers. How the MLF will be unwound will affect these downside aspects and help answer the question whether the program’s benefits exceed its costs.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.24149/wp2101