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Summary

Outsourcing, Inequality and Aggregate Output
Author(s):
Adrien Bilal, Harvard University and NBER
Hugo Lhuillier, Princeton University
Discussant(s):
Katarína Borovičková, New York University
Abstract:

Outsourced workers experience large wage declines, yet domestic outsourcing may raise aggregate productivity. To study this equity-efficiency trade-off, Bilal and Lhuillier contribute a framework in which more productive firms either post higher wages along a job ladder to sustain a larger in-house workforce, comprised of many imperfectly substitutable worker types and subject to decreasing returns to scale, or rent labor services from contractors who hire in the same frictional labor markets. Three implications arise: more productive firms are more likely to outsource to save on higher wage premia; outsourcing raises output at the firm level; labor service providers endogenously locate at the bottom of the job ladder, implying that outsourced workers receive lower wages. Using firm-level instruments for outsourcing and revenue productivity, the researchers find empirical support for all three predictions in French administrative data. After structurally estimating the model, they find that the rise in outsourcing in France between 1997 and 2007 contributed to raise aggregate output
by 1% and reduce the labor share by 3 percentage points. A small minimum wage increase can make outsourcing Pareto-improving and stabilize the labor share.

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Fifty Shades of QE: Comparing Findings of Central Bankers and Academics
Author(s):
Brian Fabo, National Bank of Slovakia
Martina Jančoková, European Central Bank
Elisabeth Kempf, University of Chicago and NBER
Lubos Pastor, University of Chicago and NBER
Discussant(s):
Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, University of California, Berkeley and NBER
Abstract:

Central banks sometimes evaluate their own policies. To assess the inherent conflict of interest, Fabo, Jančoková, Kempf, and Pastor compare the research findings of central bank researchers and academic economists regarding the macroeconomic effects of quantitative easing (QE). The researchers find that central bank papers report larger effects of QE on output and inflation. Central bankers are also more likely to report significant effects of QE on output and to use more positive language in the abstract. Central bankers who report larger QE effects on output experience more favorable career outcomes. A survey of central banks reveals substantial involvement of bank management in research production.

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In addition to the conference paper, the research was distributed as NBER Working Paper w27849, which may be a more recent version.

The Constraint on Public Debt when R < G but G < M
Author(s):
Ricardo Reis, London School of Economics
Discussant(s):
John H. Cochrane, Stanford University and NBER
Abstract:

Since real interest rates have been well below the growth rate of the economy, but the marginal product of capital has remained above, modern economies are dynamically efficient, yet there is a bubble component in public debt. Thus, the present value of primary surpluses can be lower than the outstanding debt and governments can run perpetual deficits by collecting the bubble premia. Yet, there is an upper bound on the size of the deficits that depends on how safe and liquid government debt is and on financial development. Higher spending lowers the interest rate and increases inequality, while redistributive policies shrink the feasible amount of persistent public spending, income tax cuts pay for themselves, inflation volatility reduces fiscal space available for spending, and financial repression increases it.

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The Investment Network, Sectoral Comovement, and the Changing U.S. Business Cycle
Author(s):
Christian vom Lehn, Brigham Young University
Thomas Winberry, University of Pennsylvania and NBER
Discussant(s):
Elisa Rubbo, University of Chicago and NBER
Abstract:

vom Lehn and Winberry argue that the network of investment production and purchases across sectors is an important propagation mechanism for understanding business cycles. Empirically, they show that the majority of investment goods are produced by a few "investment hubs" which are more cyclical than other sectors. The researchers embed this network into a multisector business cycle model and show that sector-specific shocks to the investment hubs and their key suppliers have large effects on aggregate employment and drive down labor productivity. Quantitatively, vom Lehn and Winberry find that sector-specific shocks to hubs and their suppliers account for an increasing share of aggregate fluctuations over time, generating the declining cyclicality of labor productivity and other changes in business cycle patterns since the 1980s.

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In addition to the conference paper, the research was distributed as NBER Working Paper w26507, which may be a more recent version.

Latent Heterogeneity in the Marginal Propensity to Consume
Author(s):
Daniel Lewis, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Davide Melcangi, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Laura Pilossoph, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Discussant(s):
Elena Manresa, New York University
Abstract:

Lewis, Melcangi, and Pilossoph estimate the distribution of marginal propensities to consume (MPCs) using a novel clustering approach, generalizing the fuzzy C-means algorithm to regression settings. The researchers find that households spent at least one fourth of their 2008 stimulus payments, with considerable MPC heterogeneity which varies by consumption good. They document observable determinants of this heterogeneity, without imposing ex ante assumptions on such relationships, and evaluate potential determinants jointly. MPCs correlate positively with income and the average propensity to consume, but much heterogeneity remains unexplained. The partial equilibrium response to the stimulus is twice the homogeneous estimate, highlighting the importance of heterogeneity.

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Cheap Thrills: The Price of Leisure and the Global Decline in Work Hours
Author(s):
Alexandr Kopytov, University of Hong Kong
Nikolai Roussanov, University of Pennsylvania and NBER
Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel, Cornell University
Discussant(s):
Alessandra Fogli, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis
Abstract:

The real price of recreation goods and services has fallen dramatically over the last century. At the same time, hours per worker have also been on a steady decline. As recreation goods make leisure time more enjoyable, Kopytov, Roussanov, and Taschereau-Dumouchel investigate if the fall in their price has contributed to the decline in work hours. Using aggregate data from OECD countries, as well as disaggregated data from the United States, the researchers provide evidence that the two are strongly related. To identify the effect of recreation prices on hours worked, Kopytov, Roussanov, and Taschereau-Dumouchel use variation in the bundle of recreational goods across demographic groups to instrument for the changing price of leisure faced by these groups over time. They then construct a macroeconomic model with general preferences that allows for trending relative prices and work hours along a balanced growth path. Kopytov, Roussanov, and Taschereau-Dumouchel estimate the model and find that the decline in recreation prices can explain a large fraction of the global decline in work hours.

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In addition to the conference paper, the research was distributed as NBER Working Paper w27744, which may be a more recent version.

Participants

Laura Castillo-Martinez, Duke University
Laurent Cavenaile, University of Toronto
Joao B. Duarte, Nova School of Business and Economics
Eran Hoffmann, Hebrew University
Tom Holden, Deutsche Bundesbank
Baris Kaymak, University of Montreal
Hugo Lhuillier, Princeton University
Jianyu Lu, Central Bank of Chile
Hannes Malmberg, University of Minnesota
Clara Martínez-Toledano, Paris School of Economics
Davide Melcangi, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Alvaro Ortiz, BBVA Research
Xincheng Qiu, University of Pennsylvania
Tomasa Rodrigo, BBVA Research
Kai-Jie Wu, University of Rochester
Choongryul Yang, Federal Reserve Board

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