Gordon Liao, Tony Zhang, 01 October 2020

Institutional investors and borrowers often hedge a sizeable portion of their currency mismatches. This column examines the role that this currency hedging of foreign assets and liabilities plays in determining exchange rates. It shows that countries’ hedging demands from their external imbalances can explain forward and spot exchange rate dynamics during the COVID-induced financial turmoil in March 2020, as well as their usage of the Federal Reserve central bank liquidity swap lines.

Olivier Coibion, Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Edward S. Knotek II, Raphael Schoenle, 30 September 2020

On 27 August 2020, the Federal Reserve announced the adoption of a new strategy of ‘average inflation targeting’, which is to replace traditional inflation targeting. This column uses a daily survey of US households to study how this announcement affected inflation expectations. It finds a small uptick in the share of households reporting to have heard news about monetary policy on the day of the announcement, but hearing about the news did not appear to affect their expectations. Even providing households with information on average inflation targeting directly did not change expectations relative to households who received information on traditional inflation targeting.

Janine Aron, John Muellbauer, 29 September 2020

The US has 4% of the world’s population but 21% of the global COVID-19-attributed infections and deaths. This column shows that when comparing excess mortality rates, a more robust way of reporting on pandemic deaths, Europe’s cumulative excess mortality rate from March to July is 28% lower than the US rate, contradicting the Trump administration’s claim that Europe’s rate is 33% higher. The US Northeast – the region most comparable with individual European countries – has experienced substantially worse excess mortality than Europe’s worst-affected countries. Had the US kept its excess mortality rate down to the level in Europe, around 57,800 American lives would have been saved. 

Jeffrey Clemens, Stan Veuger, 28 September 2020

The COVID-19 shock has significant negative consequences for the finances of US state and local governments, especially since they are bound by balanced-budget requirements. Estimates of (expected) revenue shortfalls are therefore an important input in the allocation of federal funds to offset the pandemic’s effects on state and local government revenues. This column uses Congressional Budget Office projections of consumption and personal income to forecast sales and income tax bases and revenue for all of the states. Based on May and July projections, it estimates a total shortfall of $106 billion and $105 billion, respectively.

Ufuk Akcigit, Sina T. Ates, Josh Lerner, Richard Townsend, Yulia Zhestkova, 24 September 2020

The US military community has highlighted the potential security threat posed by foreign venture investments in Silicon Valley, particularly from Chinese stakeholders. This column presents a theoretical and empirical analysis of the relationship between venture capital and national security, focusing on the ability of overseas firms to gain a domestic technological advantage through investing in the US tech sector. The growing importance of this the technology sector, as well as the national security issues at stake, mean that understanding the correlations is a vital avenue of future research.

Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 23 September 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a sudden, massive shift around the world to working from home. While there is great concern how this will affect inequality and how the economy will adjust, the shift has also saved billions of hours of commuting time in the US alone. Drawing on original surveys, this column estimates that the shift to working from home lowers commuting time among Americans by more than 60 million hours per workday. Americans devote about a third of the time savings to their primary jobs and about 60% to other work activities, including household chores and childcare. The allocation of time savings differs substantially by education group and between persons with and without children at home.

Jacek Rothert, Ryan Brady, Michael Insler, 22 September 2020

While individual states in the US decide their own lockdown policies, they are not able to restrict travel across their borders. A lax policy in some states can thus exacerbate the outbreak in other states. Drawing on recent research and county- and state-level US data, this column examines just how big the problem is. It finds that epidemiological spillovers across the US states are substantial and lax policies in the most lenient states translate into millions of additional infections in other parts of the country in the long run.

Brian Nolan, Juan C. Palomino, Philippe Van Kerm, Salvatore Morelli, 19 September 2020

Whether and how much intergenerational transfers contribute to wealth inequality is still subject to debate. This column analyses household survey data on inheritance and gifts inter vivos in France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the US to relate current household wealth levels and inequality to the receipt of intergenerational wealth transfers. In these countries, large transfers increase overall wealth inequality. Strengthening taxation capacity and instating lifetime capital acquisitions tax for gifts and inheritances may help counter the dis-equalising effect of intergenerational transfers.

Marco Del Negro, Michele Lenza, Giorgio Primiceri, Andrea Tambalotti, 18 September 2020

The analysis of inflation dynamics and their possible changes over time is a key input in the design of monetary policy, particularly in the context of the strategy reviews recently undertaken by the Federal Reserve and currently under way at the ECB and other central banks. This column studies the causes of the stability of US inflation over the business cycle since the 1990s. It concludes that the stability is mainly due to a reduced sensitivity of firms’ pricing decisions to their cost pressures. Ignoring this observation could impair the ability of monetary policy to steer inflation toward its objective.

Benny Kleinman, Ernest Liu, Stephen Redding, 17 September 2020

The increasingly prominent role of China in the world economy has led to widespread discussions concerning the balance of power, trade relations, and economic development. This column presents a new ‘friends and enemies’ model which is used to show that significant growth and welfare effects have stemmed from China’s shifting role, and that changes in trading clusters have varied across different sectors. The findings also suggest that as countries become less economically friendly in terms of the welfare effects of their productivity growth, they also become less politically friendly in terms of foreign policy. 

David Argente, Chang-Tai Hsieh, Munseob Lee, 13 September 2020

Cross-country price indexes are an essential tool for comparing living standards in different countries. But those indexes are constructed from data that does not always account for heterogeneity in shopping behaviour, the uneven quality of products, and variety availability. This column compares barcode-level data on prices and quantities for consumer packaged goods in the US and Mexico, and finds that Mexican real consumption relative to the US is larger than previously estimated. It highlights the importance of addressing sampling, quality, and variety biases in international price comparisons.

Itamar Drechsler, Alexi Savov, Philipp Schnabl, 11 September 2020

In a recent speech in Jackson Hole, Fed Chair Jay Powell laid out the Fed’s new monetary policy framework.  Under this framework, the Fed will allow inflation to run above its 2% target in order to boost employment following a downturn.  The new framework marks a departure from the perceived wisdom of the 1970s’ Great Inflation.  Under this perceived wisdom, the Fed must respond aggressively to rising inflation or risk losing its credibility and letting inflation spiral out of control.  New research on the Great Inflation challenges this perceived wisdom and offers a new explanation for what really drives inflation.  Instead of Fed credibility, this explanation puts the financial system and how it transmits monetary policy front and centre.  In doing so, it reconciles the 1970s with the current environment and provides a foundation for understanding why the Fed’s new framework is unlikely to trigger runaway inflation.

João Guerreiro, Sérgio Rebelo, Pedro Teles, 09 September 2020

Immigration policy has become a hot-button issue in both Europe and the US, with questions concerning optimal policy as well as the welfare state dominating discussions. This column revisits the idea of the immigration surplus, exploring a number of possible scenarios in terms of how policymakers should address the challenge. Correctly configuring fiscal policy so as to capture the benefits of both high- and low-skill immigrant (and native) workers is at the heart of optimal policy design and may help to address the swelling anti-immigrant sentiment that continues to exist in many countries today. 

Nicholas W. Papageorge, Matthew Zahn, Michèle Belot, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Syngjoo Choi, Julian C. Jamison, Egon Tripodi, 05 September 2020

Individual behaviours affect the spread of infectious disease. This column examines factors that predict individual behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic in the US using novel survey data. People with lower income and less flexible work arrangements are less likely to engage in behaviours that limit the spread of disease. The burden of measures to stem the pandemic is unevenly distributed across socio-demographic groups in ways that affect behaviour and potentially the spread of illness. Policies that assume otherwise are unlikely to be effective or sustainable.

Gregor Boehl, Gavin Goy, Felix Strobel, 30 August 2020

Despite their pivotal role, the macroeconomic effects of large-scale asset purchases, known as quantitative easing, remain open to debate. This column provides insights from a structural investigation of the macroeconomic effects of the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing programme during the global financial crisis. In line with the general consensus, the results suggest that asset purchases substantially eased borrowing conditions and facilitated new investment. The rise in investment led to an increase in the productive capacity which, in turn, lowered firms’ marginal cost. These supply-side effects dominated demand-side effects in determining the response of inflation, leading to a mild disinflationary effect.

Volker Nocke, Michael D. Whinston, 26 August 2020

Concentration measures such as the post-merger Herfindahl-Hirschman index as well as the merger-induced change in the index are usually key determinants in the review of horizontal mergers by competition agencies and courts. This column studies whether the magnitude of the efficiencies required for a merger not to hurt consumers may be related to the change and the level of the Herfindahl-Hirschman index. On the basis of theoretical analysis substantiated by empirical evidence, it finds that while the critical level of efficiencies depends on the change in the index, it is independent of level of the index. Hence current guidelines should be changed so as to emphasise the change more and the level less.

Robert McCauley, 26 August 2020

On 23 March 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that it would buy investment grade corporate bonds, and on 9 April set the amount at up to $250 billion and extended the purchase to junk bonds. This column shows that these interventions succeeded in stabilising credit markets: prices lifted and dealing spreads narrowed. However, emergency lending powers provide an inadequate basis for Federal Reserve operations in corporate bonds. In light of these findings, congressional authority to buy and to sell corporate bonds alongside US Treasuries would help to align Federal Reserve operations with what has become a capital-market centred financial system

Peter Klenow, Huiyu Li, 18 August 2020

There is much concern that the Covid-19 crisis may be particularly tough for relatively young firms to survive. Given that much innovation is attributed to young firms, this could then harm overall productivity. This column uses the dynamics of various firms’ market shares in order to infer their growth contributions. Compared to studies focusing on patents and R&D spending, the authors find a much bigger role for new and young firms in terms of accounting for productivity growth. Protecting young firms is therefore essential to mitigating the productivity damage of Covid-19.

Teresa Fort, Justin Pierce, Peter Schott, 18 August 2020

Although it is well documented that US manufacturing employment has been falling since 1979, the causes of this trend are still unclear. This column argues that examining how and where the decline in US manufacturing employment occurs provides important insights in this regard. Using US Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Business Database, it highlights three important trends post 1979 which suggest substantial increases in labour productivity, and an evolution of US manufacturing in line with US comparative advantage. 

Michael Gapen, Jonathan Millar, Blerina Uruçi, Pooja Sriram, 14 August 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, US policymakers must consider containment measures while weighing adverse health outcomes against forgone economic activity. This column uses panel data to evaluate alternative strategies to keep COVID-19 in check. Viable options to keep new case counts on a downward trajectory without economically costly shutdowns include more testing (at least 1.8 million per day for the US, used in isolation) and either mask requirements or indoor-dining restrictions. The US is nowhere near the point where herd immunity alone can control infections.

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