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Marginal income taxes may have an insurance effect by decreasing the effective fluctuations of after-tax individual income. By compressing the idiosyncratic component o personal income fluctuations, higher marginal taxes should be negatively correlated with the dispersion of consumption across households, a necessary implication of an insurance effect of taxation. Our study empirically examines this negative correlation, exploiting the ample variation of state taxes across US states. We show that taxes are negatively correlated with the consumption dispersion of the within-state distribution of non-durable consumption and that this correlation is robust.

Modern macroeconomics empirically addresses economy-wide incentives behind economic actions by using insights from the way a single representative household would behave. This analytical approach requires that incentives of the poor and the rich are strictly aligned. In empirical analysis a challenging complication is that consumer and income data are typically available at the household level, and individuals living in multimember households have the potential to share goods within the household. The analytical approach of modern macroeconomics would require that intra-household sharing is also strictly aligned across the rich and the poor. Here we have designed a survey method that allows the testing of this stringent property of intra-household sharing and find that it holds: once expenditures for basic needs are subtracted from disposable household income, household-size economies implied by the remainder household incomes are the same for the rich and the poor.

We analytically show that a common across rich/poor individuals Stone-Geary utility function with subsistence consumption in the context of a simple two-asset portfolio-choice model is capable of qualitatively and quantitatively explaining: (i) the higher saving rates of the rich, (ii) the higher fraction of personal wealth held in risky assets by the rich, and (iii) the higher volatility of consumption of the wealthier. On the contrary, time-variant “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” weighted average consumption which plays the role of moving benchmark subsistence consumption gives the same portfolio composition and saving rates across the rich and the poor, failing to reconcile the model with what micro data say. JEL Classification: G11, D91, E21, D81, D14, D11

This paper proposes a new approach for modeling investor fear after rare disasters. The key element is to take into account that investors’ information about fundamentals driving rare downward jumps in the dividend process is not perfect. Bayesian learning implies that beliefs about the likelihood of rare disasters drop to a much more pessimistic level once a disaster has occurred. Such a shift in beliefs can trigger massive declines in price-dividend ratios. Pessimistic beliefs persist for some time. Thus, belief dynamics are a source of apparent excess volatility relative to a rational expectations benchmark. Due to the low frequency of disasters, even an infinitely-lived investor will remain uncertain about the exact probability. Our analysis is conducted in continuous time and offers closed-form solutions for asset prices. We distinguish between rational and adaptive Bayesian learning. Rational learners account for the possibility of future changes in beliefs in determining their demand for risky assets, while adaptive learners take beliefs as given. Thus, risky assets tend to be lower-valued and price-dividend ratios vary less under adaptive versus rational learning for identical priors. Keywords: beliefs, Bayesian learning, controlled diffusions and jump processes, learning about jumps, adaptive learning, rational learning. JEL classification: D83, G11, C11, D91, E21, D81, C61

Most simulated micro-founded macro models use solely consumer-demand aggregates in order to estimate deep economy-wide preference parameters, which are useful for policy evaluation. The underlying demand-aggregation properties that this approach requires, should be easy to empirically disprove: since household-consumption choices differ for households with more members, aggregation can be rejected if appropriate data violate an affine equation regarding how much individuals benefit from within-household sharing of goods. We develop a survey method that tests the validity of this equation, without utility-estimation restrictions via models. Surprisingly, in six countries, this equation is not rejected, lending support to using consumer-demand aggregates.

US data and new stockholding data from fifteen European countries and China exhibit a common pattern: stockholding shares increase in household income and wealth. Yet, there is a multitude of numbers to match through models. Using a single utility function across households (parsimony), we suggest a strategy for fitting stockholding numbers, while replicating that saving rates increase in wealth, too. The key is introducing subsistence consumption to an Epstein-Zin-Weil utility function, creating endogenous risk-aversion differences across rich and poor. A closed-form solution for the model with insurable labor-income risk serves as calibration guide for numerical simulations with uninsurable labor-income risk.

We compare the cost effectiveness of two pronatalist policies:
(a) child allowances; and
(b) daycare subsidies.
We pay special attention to estimating how intended fertility (fertility before children are born) responds to these policies. We use two evaluation tools:
(i) a dynamic model on fertility, labor supply, outsourced childcare time, parental time, asset accumulation and consumption; and
(ii) randomized vignette-survey policy experiments.
We implement both tools in the United States and Germany, finding consistent evidence that daycare subsidies are more cost effective. Nevertheless, the required public expenditure to increase fertility to the replacement level might be viewed as prohibitively high.

We develop a dynamic recursive model where political and economic decisions interact, to study how excessive debt-GDP ratios affect political sustainability of prudent fiscal policies. Rent seeking groups make political decisions – to cooperate (or not) – on the allocation of fiscal budgets (including rents) and issuance of sovereign debt. A classic commons problem triggers collective fiscal impatience and excessive debt issuing, leading to a vicious circle of high borrowing costs and sovereign default. We analytically characterize debt-GDP thresholds that foster cooperation among rent seeking groups and avoid default. Our analysis and application helps in understanding the politico-economic sustainability of sovereign rescues, emphasizing the need for fiscal targets and possible debt haircuts. We provide a calibrated example that quantifies the threshold debt-GDP ratio at 137%, remarkably close to the target set for private sector involvement in the case of Greece.

Following the introduction of the one-child policy in China, the capital-labor (K/L) ratio of China increased relative to that of India, and, simultaneously, FDI inflows relative to GDP for China versus India declined. These observations are explained in the context of a simple neoclassical OLG paradigm. The adjustment mechanism works as follows: the reduction in the growth rate of the (urban) labor force due to the one-child policy permanently increases the capital per worker inherited from the previous generation. The resulting increase in China's (domestic K)/L thus "crowds out" the need for FDI in China relative to India. Our paper is a contribution to the nascent literature exploring demographic transitions and their effects on FDI flows.

Differential games of common resources that are governed by linear accumulation constraints have several applications. Examples include political rent-seeking groups expropriating public infrastructure, oligopolies expropriating common resources, industries using specific common infrastructure or equipment, capital-flight problems, pollution, etc. Most of the theoretical literature employs specific parametric examples of utility functions. For symmetric differential games with linear constraints and a general time-separable utility function depending only on the player’s control variable, we provide an exact formula for interior symmetric Markovian-strategies. This exact solution, (a) serves as a guide for obtaining some new closed-form solutions and for characterizing multiple equilibria, and (b) implies that, if the utility function is an analytic function, then the Markovian strategies are analytic functions, too. This analyticity property facilitates the numerical computation of interior solutions of such games using polynomial projection methods and gives potential to computing modified game versions with corner solutions by employing a homotopy approach.