NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Karel Mertens

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February 2017The Macroeconomic Effects of Government Asset Purchases: Evidence from Postwar US Housing Credit Policy
with Andrew Fieldhouse, Morten O. Ravn: w23154
We document the portfolio activity of federal housing agencies and provide evidence on its impact on mortgage markets and the economy. Through a narrative analysis, we identify historical policy changes leading to expansions or contractions in agency mortgage holdings. Based on those regulatory events that we classify as unrelated to short-run cyclical or credit market shocks, we find that an increase in mortgage purchases by the agencies boosts mortgage lending, in particular refinancing, and lowers mortgage rates. Agency purchases influence prices in other asset markets, stimulate residential investment and expand homeownership. Using information in GSE stock prices to construct an alternative instrument for agency purchasing activity yields very similar results as our benchmark narrativ...
A Narrative Analysis of Mortgage Asset Purchases by Federal Agencies
with Andrew J. Fieldhouse: w23165
This paper provides a narrative analysis of regulatory policy changes affecting the purchases and holdings of mortgages and related securities of five US government entities over the 1968–2014 period. We focus on federal government policies that aim to influence the allocation and/or supply of residential mortgage credit. We use contemporary primary sources and various institutional histories to identify significant policy interventions, to document their economic and regulatory context, surrounding motives, and pertinent timing, as well as to quantify projected impacts on agencies’ mortgage holdings. Finally, we classify each significant policy change as either ‘cyclically motivated’ or ‘non-cyclically motivated.’ The results of the narrative analysis of federal housing credit policy chan...
June 2013Marginal Tax Rates and Income: New Time Series Evidence
w19171
Using new narrative measures of exogenous variation in marginal tax rates associated with postwar tax reforms in the US, this study estimates short run elasticities of taxable income of around 1.2 based on time series from 1946 to 2012. Elasticities are larger in the top 1% of the income distribution but are also positive and statistically significant for other income groups. Previous time series studies of tax returns data have found little evidence for income responses to taxes outside the top of the income distribution. The different results in this study arise because of additional efforts to account for dynamics, expectations and especially the endogeneity of tax policy decisions. Marginal rate cuts lead to increases in real GDP and declines in unemployment. This study also presents e...
August 2010Empirical Evidence on the Aggregate Effects of Anticipated and Unanticipated U.S. Tax Policy Shocks
with Morten Ravn: w16289
We provide empirical evidence on the dynamics effects of tax liability changes in the United States. We distinguish between surprise and anticipated tax changes using a timing-convention. We document that pre-announced but not yet implemented tax cuts give rise to contractions in output, investment and hours worked while real wages increase. In contrast, there are no significant anticipation effects on aggregate consumption. Implemented tax cuts, regardless of their timing, have expansionary and persistent effects on output, consumption, investment, hours worked and real wages. Results are shown to be very robust. We argue that tax shocks are empirically important impulses to the U.S. business cycle and that anticipation effects have been important during several business cycle episodes.

Published: Karel Mertens & Morten O. Ravn, 2012. "Empirical Evidence on the Aggregate Effects of Anticipated and Unanticipated US Tax Policy Shocks," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 145-81, May. citation courtesy of

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