Retirement Choices by State and Local Public Sector Employees: The Role of Eligibility and Financial Incentives -- by Leslie E. Papke
I analyze the effects of state public pension parameters on the retirement of public employees. Using a panel data set of public sector workers from 12 waves of the Health and Retirement Study, I model the probability of retirement as a function of pension wealth at early and normal retirement eligibility and Social Security coverage in the public sector job. I find that becoming eligible for early retirement, or receiving an early-out offer, significantly increases the probability of retiring. I do not find any effect of retirement wealth levels; instead the findings are consistent with the literature on default options in defined contribution plans. These findings suggest that state legislative action to affect retirement decisions and reduce future pension costs may be most effective operating through plan eligibility rules and early-out incentives.
Why Has China Overinvested in Coal Power? -- by Mengjia Ren, Lee G. Branstetter, Brian K. Kovak, Daniel E. Armanios, Jiahai Yuan
Since 2005, the Chinese government has engaged in an ambitious effort to move China's energy system away from coal and towards more environmentally friendly sources of energy. However, China's investment in coal power has accelerated sharply in recent years, raising concerns of massive overcapacity and undermining the central policy goal of promoting cleaner energy. In this paper, we ask why China engaged in such a pronounced investment boom in coal power in the mid-2010s. We find the protective rules under which China's coal power industry has historically operated have made excessive investment extremely likely unless the central government serves as a "gatekeeper," slowing and limiting investment in the face of incentives for socially excessive entry. When coal-power project approval authority was decentralized from the central government to local governments at the end of 2014, the gate was lifted and approval time considerably shortened, allowing investment to flood into the market. We construct a simple economic model that elucidates the effects of key policies on coal power investment, and examine the model's predictions using coal-power project approval records from 2013 to 2016. We find the approval rate of coal power is about 3 times higher when the approval authority is decentralized, and provinces with larger coal industries tend to approve more coal power. We estimate that local coal production accounts for an additional 54GW of approved coal power in 2015 (other things equal), which is about 1/4 of total approved capacity in that year.
From Immigrants to Robots: The Changing Locus of Substitutes for Workers -- by George J. Borjas, Richard B. Freeman
Increased use of robots has roused concern about how robots and other new technologies change the world of work. Using numbers of robots shipped to primarily manufacturing industries as a supply shock to an industry labor market, we estimate that an additional robot reduces employment and wages in an industry by roughly as much as an additional 2 to 3 workers and by 3 to 4 workers in particular groups, which far exceed estimated effects of an additional immigrant on employment and wages. While the growth of robots in the 1996-2016 period of our data was too modest to be a major determinant of wages and employment, the estimated coefficients suggest that continued exponential growth of robots could disrupt job markets in the foreseeable future and thus merit attention from labor analysts.
A country's exports rise when its leadership is approved by other countries. I show this using a standard gravity model of bilateral exports, a panel of data from 2006 through 2017, and an annual Gallup survey which asks people in up to 157 countries whether they approve of the job performance of the leadership of China, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Holding other things constant, a country's exports are higher if its leadership is approved by the importer; 'soft power' promotes exports. The soft power effect is statistically and economically significant; a one percent increase in leadership approval raises exports by around two-thirds of a percent. This effect is reasonably robust, and different measures of soft power deliver similar results. I conservatively estimate that the >20 percentage point decline in foreign approval of American leadership between 2016 (the final year of Obama's presidency) and 2017 (Trump's first year) lowered American exports by at least $3 billion.
Heterogeneity, Measurement Error and Misallocation: Evidence from African Agriculture -- by Douglas Gollin, Christopher R. Udry
Standard measures of productivity display enormous dispersion across farms in Africa. Crop yields and input intensities appear to vary greatly, seemingly in conflict with a model of efficient allocation across farms. In this paper, we present a theoretical framework for distinguishing between measurement error, unobserved heterogeneity, and potential misallocation. Using rich panel data from farms in Tanzania and Uganda, we estimate our model using a flexible specification in which we allow for several kinds of measurement error and heterogeneity. We find that measurement error and heterogeneity together account for a large fraction - as much as ninety percent -- of the dispersion in measured productivity. In contrast to some previous estimates, we suggest that the potential for efficiency gains through reallocation of land across farms and farmers may be relatively modest.
The Origins of Firm Heterogeneity: A Production Network Approach -- by Andrew B. Bernard, Emmanuel Dhyne, Glenn Magerman, Kalina Manova, Andreas Moxnes
This paper quantifies the origins of firm size heterogeneity when firms are interconnected in a production network. Using the universe of buyer-supplier relationships in Belgium, the paper develops a set of stylized facts that motivate a model in which firms buy inputs from upstream suppliers and sell to downstream buyers and final demand. Larger firm size can come from high production capability, more or better buyers and suppliers, and/or better matches between buyers and suppliers. Downstream factors explain the vast majority of firm size heterogeneity. Firms with higher production capability have greater market shares among their customers, but also higher input costs and fewer customers. As a result, high production capability firms have lower sales unconditionally and higher sales conditional on their input prices. Counterfactual analysis suggests that the production network accounts for more than half of firm size dispersion. Taken together, our results suggest that multiple firm attributes underpin their success or failure, and that models with only one source of firm heterogeneity fail to capture the majority of firm size dispersion.
Have the idle rich replaced the working rich at the top of the U.S. income distribution? Using tax data linking 11 million firms to their owners, this paper finds that entrepreneurs who actively manage their firms are key for top income inequality. Most top income is non-wage income, a primary source of which is private business profit. These profits accrue to working-age owners of closely-held, mid-market firms in skill-intensive industries. Private business profit falls by three-quarters after owner retirement or premature death. Classifying three-quarters of private business profit as human capital income, we find that most top earners are working rich: they derive most of their income from human capital, not physical or financial capital. The human capital income of private business owners exceeds top wage income and top public equity income. Growth in private business profit is explained by both rising productivity and a rising share of value added accruing to owners.
One of the purported benefits of blockchain technologies is the ability to house what have been termed 'smart' contracts. Such contracts are potentially self-executing depending on the state of information recorded on a blockchain ledger. This paper examines the capabilities of smart contracts from an economic perspective. It is demonstrated that by improving observability and reducing the costs of verification of contract obligation performance, the space of feasible contracts can be enlarged. Moreover, by providing commitments to various monetary payments, a blockchain can potentially create a foundation to house certain mechanisms that have been shown to overcome difficulties of contractual incompleteness. This is demonstrated using a simple international trade environment. Thus, even though smart contracts must respect the incentives of decision-makers in their obligations, they have the potential to use easily verifiable elements to create incentives to reduce hold-up and other contractual difficulties.
Variation in Women's Success Across PhD Programs in Economics -- by Leah Platt Boustan, Andrew Langan
We document wide and persistent variation in women's representation and success across graduate programs in economics. Using new data on early career outcomes for recent graduates, including first job placement, publications and promotion, we compare (anonymized) departments on outcomes for women relative to men graduating from the same program. We then conduct interviews with faculty and former students from five programs higher and lower relative outcomes. We find that departments with higher outcomes for women also hire more women faculty, facilitate advisor-student contact, provide collegial research seminars, and are notable for senior faculty with awareness of gender issues. We offer our qualitative evidence as the first step in learning about "what works" in expanding women's representation in economics.
The Fiscal Theory of the Price Level in Overlapping Generations Models -- by Roger E.A. Farmer, Pawel Zabczyk
We demonstrate that the Fiscal Theory of the Price Level (FTPL) cannot be used to determine the price level uniquely in the overlapping generations (OLG) model. We provide two examples of OLG models, one with three 3-period lives and one with 62-period lives. Both examples are calibrated to an income profile chosen to match the life-cycle earnings process in U.S. data estimated by Guvenen et al. (2015). In both examples, there exist multiple steady-state equilibria. Our findings challenge established views about what constitutes a good combination of fiscal and monetary policies. As long as the primary deficit or the primary surplus is not too large, the fiscal authority can conduct policies that are unresponsive to endogenous changes in the level of its outstanding debt. Monetary and fiscal policy can both be active at the same time.
Tweet Sixteen and Pregnant: Missing Links in the Causal Chain from Reality TV to Fertility -- by David A. Jaeger, Theodore J. Joyce, Robert Kaestner
We examine the relationship between social media activity, such as Google searches and tweets, related to teen pregnancy and the airing of the MTV program 16 and Pregnant. In contrast to Kearney and Levine's (2015) claim of a positive relationship, we find that the association is statistically insignificant or negative, when the analysis includes periods when new episodes of the program were not being broadcast. The results are also sensitive to using the total number of tweets, which were growing exponentially, as weights. Our results cast substantial doubt on social media as a link in the causal chain between reality television and fertility.
Spatial Correlation, Trade, and Inequality: Evidence from the Global Climate -- by Jonathan I. Dingel, Kyle C. Meng, Solomon M. Hsiang
This paper shows that greater global spatial correlation of productivities can increase cross-country welfare dispersion by increasing the correlation between a country's productivity and its gains from trade. We causally validate this general-equilibrium prediction using a global climatic phenomenon as a natural experiment. We find that gains from trade in cereals over the last half-century were larger for more productive countries and smaller for less productive countries when cereal productivity was more spatially correlated. Incorporating this general-equilibrium effect into a projection of climate-change impacts raises projected international inequality, with higher welfare losses across most of Africa.