Economics Working Paper Archive


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Now showing 1 - 19 of 19
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    Identification of Unobservables in Observations
    (2022-12-05) Hu, Yingyao;
    In empirical studies, the data usually don't include all the variables of interest in an economic model. This paper shows the identification of unobserved variables in observations at the population level. When the observables are distinct in each observation, there exists a function mapping from the observables to the unobservables. Such a function guarantees the uniqueness of the latent value in each observation. The key lies in the identification of the joint distribution of observables and unobservables from the distribution of observables. The joint distribution of observables and unobservables then reveal the latent value in each observation. Three examples of this result are discussed.
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    The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic Recession on Less Educated Women's Human Capital: Some Projectsion
    (2022-11-08) Moffitt, Robert;
    The recession induced by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in major declines in employment of women, both from the demand side as firms reduced employment and from the supply side resulting from school closures and the closing of many child care facilities. We provide projections of possible impacts of this reduction on less-educated women's future human capital framed within the traditional Mincerian model that implies that wage growth falls if a recession reduces the growth of work experience. We develop a new and modified form of the Mincerian log wage equation which we argue captures the effect of women's work experience on their human capital in a way superior to the traditional form of that equation. Using that modified form, we estimate the impact of recession-induced loss of work experience on wages using what we term Cohort IV. Our model, estimated on pre-COVID data, incorporates special features anticipated to be of importance in the pandemic, including the degree to which negative aggregate shocks occur to pandemic-specific industries, whether the impact of shocks varies by telecommuting occupation, and how the impact varies with the presence of preschool and school-age children who are affected by school and child-care facility closures. We find that wage losses one year out from 2020 are relatively modest on average, generally less than one percent, but larger for married women than for unmarried women and for those working in COVID-impacted industries. For married women, it is more severe for younger married mothers, for younger and older married childless women, and for married mothers with older children. School closures are also important for married women with school-age children and increase negative wage impacts by 50 percent. An increase in part-year work projected to occur during the pandemic increases the size of human capital losses.
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    Revealing Unobservables by Deep Learning: Generative Element Extraction Networks (GEEN)
    (2022-10-03) HU, YINGYAO; Liu, Yang; Yao, Jiaxiong;
    Latent variable models are crucial in scientific research, where a key variable, such as effort, ability, and belief, is unobserved in the sample but needs to be identified. This paper proposes a novel method for estimating realizations of a latent variable $X^*$ in a random sample that contains its multiple measurements. With the key assumption that the measurements are independent conditional on $X^*$, we provide sufficient conditions under which realizations of $X^*$ in the sample are locally unique in a class of deviations, which allows us to identify realizations of $X^*$. To the best of our knowledge, this paper is the first to provide such identification in observation. We then use the Kullback–Leibler distance between the two probability densities with and without the conditional independence as the loss function to train a Generative Element Extraction Networks (GEEN) that maps from the observed measurements to realizations of $X^*$ in the sample. The simulation results imply that this proposed estimator works quite well and the estimated values are highly correlated with realizations of $X^*$. Our estimator can be applied to a large class of latent variable models and we expect it will change how people deal with latent variables.
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    Take-up of Social Benefits
    (2022-06-06) Ko, Wonsik; Moffitt, Robert;
    Take-up of a social benefit is usually defined as receiving a benefit for which an individual or household is eligible. The take-up rate is the fraction of those eligible for a program who participate and receive a benefit or service. We survey estimates of take-up of social benefits around the world, discuss alternative theories of reasons for incomplete take-up, and survey the empirical evidence on the importance of different factors. We find a wide range of take-up rates around the world which follow some general patterns but are not easily explained. Theories of incomplete take-up include those involving low monetary or utility gains, stigma of receipt, monetary and nonmonetary costs of program participation, imperfect information, administrative barriers, and mismeasurement. The types of individuals who do and do not take up a program is argued to be determined by the joint distribution of gains and losses across those types, which ones face the largest administrative burden of participation and largest information deficits, and face more program operator error. There is a large body of evidence showing the importance of benefit gain and earnings losses from take-up but a smaller body of evidence on other factors, which shows that administrative barriers and costs, lack of information, and stigma all appear to be important for different programs. While there are no easy solutions to the problem of incomplete take-up, policies to at least lessen the problem are argued to be available, although generally not without increased government expenditure.
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    The Return to Work in Disablity Programs: What Has Been Learned and Next Steps
    (Social Security Administration, 2022-01-24) Moffitt, Robert; Gregory, Jesse;
    We review a number of demonstrations conducted by the Social Security Administration which have attempted to improve labor market outcomes for disabled worker beneficiaries of the Social Security Disability Insurance program and disabled recipients of the Supplemental Security Income program. Based on our review, we draw lessons for the design of programs which improve work incentives and suggest possible elements of new demonstrations. *
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    The Supplemental Expenditure Poverty Measure: A New Method for Measuring Poverty
    (2022-05-10) Moffitt, Robert;
    We propose a new measure of the rate of poverty we call the Supplemental Expenditure Poverty Measure (SEPM) based on expenditure in the Consumer Expenditure survey. It treats household expenditure as a measure of resources available to purchase the minimum bundle necessary to meet basic needs. Our measure differs from conventional income and consumption poverty in both concept and measurement and it has advantages relative to both. Poverty rates using our basic measure are very close in level and recent trend to those of the most preferred income-based poverty rate produced by the Census Bureau. But our SEPM poverty rate differs from the Census measure at different levels of the poverty line. For example, that the number of individuals living in either poor or “almost” poor households is 5 percentage points greater (about 16 million individuals) using our measure. We also construct an augmented measure that adds additional potential liquid resources. This “maximal resources” measure indicates that if disadvantaged households used up all their bank balances and maximized their credit card borrowing, 9.6 percent of the population (over 31 million individuals) would still be poor and unable to purchase the goods necessary for the basic needs of life.
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    Imposing Commitment to Rein in Overconfidence in Learning
    (2017-09-19) Fernandez, Marcelo Ariel; Mayskaya, Tatiana; Nikandrova, Arina;
    A rational principal delegates learning to an overconfident agent who overestimates the precision of the information he collects. The principal chooses between two contracts: commitment, in which the agent commits to the duration of learning in advance, and flexible, in which the agent decides when to stop learning in real time. When the agent is sufficiently overconfident, the principal optimally ties the agent's hands by offering him the commitment contract. When the principal can choose both the contract and the agent's level of overconfidence, selecting the rational agent is suboptimal when the cost of learning is sufficiently high.
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    Reconciling Trends in U.S. Male Earnings Volatility: Results from Survey and Administrative Data
    (2022-01-31) Moffitt, Robert A.; Abowd, John; Bollinger, Christopher; Carr, Michael; Hokayem, Charles; McKinney, Kevin; Wiemers, Emily; Ziliak, James;
    There is a large literature on earnings and income volatility in labor economics, household finance, and macroeconomics. One strand of that literature has studied whether individual earnings volatility has risen or fallen in the U.S. over the last several decades. There are strong disagreements in the empirical literature on this important question, with some studies showing upward trends, some showing downward trends, and some showing no trends. Some studies have suggested that the differences are the result of using flawed survey data instead of more accurate administrative data. This paper summarizes the results of a project attempting to reconcile these findings with four different data sets and six different data series--three survey and three administrative data series, including two which match survey respondent data to their administrative data. Using common specifications, measures of volatility, and other treatments of the data, four of the six data series show a lack of any significant long-term trend in male earnings volatility over the last 20-to-30+ years when differences across the data sets are properly accounted for. A fifth data series (the PSID) shows a positive net trend but small in magnitude. A sixth, administrative, data set, available only since 1998, shows no net trend 1998-2011 and only a small decline thereafter. Many of the remaining differences across data series can be explained by differences in their cross-sectional distribution of earnings, particularly differences in the size of the lower tail. We conclude that the data sets we have analyzed, which include many of the most important available, show little evidence of any significant trend in male earnings volatility since the mid-1980s.
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    The Marginal Labor Supply Disincentives of Welfare: Evidence from Administrative Barriers to Participation
    (2022-01-19) Moffitt, Robert A.; Zahn, Matthew V.;
    Existing research on the static effects of the manipulation of welfare program benefit parameters on labor supply has allowed only restrictive forms of heterogeneity in preferences. Yet preference heterogeneity implies that the marginal effects on labor supply of welfare expansions and contractions may differ in different time periods with different populations and which sweep out different portions of the distribution of preferences. A new examination of the heavily studied AFDC program uses variation in state-level administrative barriers to entering the program in the late 1980s and early 1990s to estimate the marginal labor supply effects of changes in program participation induced by that variation. The estimates are obtained from a theory-consistent reduced form model which allows for a nonparametric specification of how changes in welfare program participation affect labor supply on the margin. Estimates using a form of local instrumental variables show that the marginal treatment effects are quadratic, rising and then falling as participation rates rise (i.e., becoming more negative then less negative on hours of work). The average work disincentive is not large but that masks some margins where effects are close to zero and some which are sizable. Traditional IV which estimates a weighted average of marginal effects gives a misleading picture of marginal responses. A counterfactual exercise which applies the estimates to three historical reform periods in 1967, 1981, and 1996 when the program tax rate was significantly altered shows that marginal labor supply responses differed in each period because of differences in the level of participation in the period and the composition of who was on the program.
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    Currency Wars, Trade Wars and Global Demand
    (2021-12-17) Jeanne, Olivier;
    This paper presents a tractable model of a global economy in which countries can use a broad range of policy instruments---the nominal interest rate, taxes on imports and exports, taxes on capital flows or foreign exchange interventions. Low demand may lead to unemployment because of downward nominal wage stickiness. Markov perfect equilibria with and without international cooperation are characterized in closed form. The welfare costs of trade and currency wars crucially depend on the state of global demand and on the policy instruments that are used by national policymakers. Countries have more incentives to deviate from free trade when global demand is low. Trade wars lower employment if they involve tariffs on imports but raise employment if they involve export subsidies. Tariff wars can lead to self-fulfilling global liquidity traps.
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    To what extent are tariffs offset by exchange rates?
    (2012-11-23) Jeanne, Olivier; Son, Jeongwon;
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    Rounding the corners of the trilemma: A simple framework
    (2021-10-26) Jeanne, Olivier;
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    Deferred acceptance and regret-free truth-telling
    (2018-06-01) Fernandez, Marcelo Ariel;
    The deferred acceptance mechanism has been widely adopted across centralized matching markets, despite the fact that it provides participants with opportunities to “game the system.” Accounting for the lack of information that participants typically have in these markets in practice, I introduce a new notion of behavior under uncertainty that captures participants’ aversion to experience regret. I show that participants optimally choose not to manipulate the deferred acceptance mechanism in order to avoid regret. Moreover, the deferred acceptance mechanism is the unique mechanism within an interesting class (quantile-stable) to induce honesty from participants in this way.
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    Refining Set-Identification in VARs through Independence
    (2021-10-06) Drautzburg, Thorsten; Wright, Jonathan H;
    Identification in VARs has traditionally mainly relied on second moments. Some researchers have considered using higher moments as well, but there are concerns about the strength of the identification obtained in this way. In this paper, we propose refining existing identification schemes by augmenting sign restrictions with a requirement that rules out shocks whose higher moments significantly depart from independence. This approach does not assume that higher moments help with identification; it is robust to weak identification. In simulations we show that it controls coverage well, in contrast to approaches that assume that the higher moments deliver point-identification. However, it requires large sample sizes and/or considerable non-normality to reduce the width of confidence intervals by much. We consider some empirical applications. We find that it can reject many possible rotations. The resulting confidence sets for impulse responses may be non-convex, corresponding to disjoint parts of the space of rotation matrices. We show that in this case, augmenting sign and magnitude restrictions with an independence requirement can yield bigger gains.
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    The Economic Value of Breaking Bad: Misbehavior, Schooling and the Labor Market
    (2014-01-31) Papageorge, Nicholas; Ronda, Victor; Zheng, Yu;
    Prevailing research argues that childhood misbehavior in the classroom is bad for schooling and, presumably, bad for labor market outcomes. In contrast, we argue that some childhood misbehavior represents underlying socio-emotional skills that are valuable in the labor market. We follow work from psychology and categorize observed classroom misbehavior into two underlying latent factors. We then estimate a model of educational attainment and earnings outcomes, allowing the impact of each of the two factors to vary by outcome. We find that one of the factors, labeled in the psychological literature as externalizing behavior (and linked, for example, to aggression), reduces educational attainment yet increases earnings. For men, it increases wages, while for women it increases hours. Un- like most models where skills that increase human capital through education also increase earnings, our findings illustrate how some socio-emotional skills can be productive in some economic contexts and not only unproductive, but counter-productive in others. Using a task model, we extend our results to show heterogeneity in returns for males, but not for females. We also find that different kinds of secondary schools exhibit different externalizing penalties, suggesting the tasks schools emphasize can affect how externalizing behavior interacts with education.
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    Identification of Causal Models with Unobservables: A Self-Report Approach
    (2021-08-18) Hu, Yingyao;
    This paper presents a novel self-report approach to identify a general causal model with an unobserved covariate, which can be unobserved heterogeneity or an unobserved choice variable. It shows that a carefully designed noninvasive survey procedure can provide enough information to identify the complete causal model through the joint distribution of the observables and the unobservable. The global nonparametric point identification results provide sufficient conditions under which the joint distribution of four observables, two in a causal model and two from surveys, uniquely determines the joint distribution of the unobservable in the causal model and the four observables. The identification of such a joint distribution including the unobserved covariate implies that the complete causal model is identified.
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    COVID-19 and the U.S. Social Safety Net
    (2020-09-06) Moffitt, Robert; Ziliak, James;
    We examine trends in employment, earnings, and incomes over the last two decades in the United States, and how the safety net has responded to changing fortunes, including the shutdown of the economy in response to the Covid-19 Pandemic. The U.S. safety net is a patchwork of different programs providing in-kind as well as cash benefits and had many holes prior to the Pandemic. In addition, few of the programs are designed explicitly as automatic stabilizers. We show that the safety net response to employment losses in the Covid-19 Pandemic largely consists only of increased support from unemployment insurance and food assistance programs, an inadequate response compared to the magnitude of the downturn. We discuss options to reform social assistance in America to provide more robust income floors in times of economic downturns.