Does macroeconomic volatility/uncertainty affects accumulation of net foreign assets? In OECD economies over the period 1970–2012, changes in country specific aggregate volatility are, after controlling for a wide array of factors, significantly positively associated with net foreign asset position. A standard open economy model with time varying macroeconomic uncertainty can quantitatively account for this relationship. The key mechanism is precautionary motive: more uncertainty induces residents to save more, and higher savings are in part channeled into foreign assets. Data and theory suggest that volatility is an important determinant of the medium/long run evolution of external imbalances in developed countries.
One of the most dramatic economic transformations of the past century has been the entry of women into the labor force. While many theories explain why this change took place, we investigate the process of transition itself. We argue that local information transmission generates changes in participation that are geographically heterogeneous, locally correlated, and smooth in the aggregate, just like those observed in our data. In our model, women learn about the effects of maternal employment on children by observing nearby employed women. When few women participate in the labor force, data are scarce and participation rises slowly. As information accumulates in some regions, the effects of maternal employment become less uncertain and more women in that region participate. Learning accelerates, labor force participation rises faster, and regional participation rates diverge. Eventually, information diffuses throughout the economy, beliefs converge to the truth, participation flattens out, and regions become more similar again. To investigate the empirical relevance of our theory, we use a new county-level data set to compare our calibrated model to the time series and geographic patterns of participation.
We study culture by examining the work and fertility behavior of second-generation American women. Culture is proxied with past female labor force participation and total fertility rates from the woman’s country of ancestry. The values of these variables capture not only economic and institutional conditions but also the country’s preferences and beliefs regarding women’s roles. Since the women live in the United States, only the belief and preference components are potentially relevant. We show that the cultural proxies have positive significant explanatory power even after controlling for education and spousal characteristics, and we demonstrate that the results are unlikely to be explained by unobserved human capital.
The early 1980s marked the onset of two striking features of the current world macroeconomy: the fall in U.S. business cycle volatility (the “great moderation”) and the large and persistent U.S. external imbalance. In this paper, we argue that an external imbalance is a natural consequence of the great moderation. If a country experiences a fall in volatility greater than that of its partners, its incentives to accumulate precautionary savings fall and this results in a permanent deterioration of its external balance. To assess how much of the current U.S. imbalance can be explained by this channel, we consider a standard two-country business cycle model in which households are subject to business cycle shocks they cannot perfectly insure against. The model suggests that a fall in business cycle volatility like that observed in the United States can account for about 20 percent of the actual U.S. external imbalance.
This paper attempts to disentangle the direct effects of experience from those of culture in determining fertility. We use the GSS to examine the fertility of women born in the US but from different ethnic backgrounds. We take lagged values of the total fertility rate in the woman’s country of ancestry as the cultural proxy and use the woman’s number of siblings to capture her direct family experience. We find that both variables are significant determinants of fertility, even after controlling for several individual and family-level characteristics.
This paper argues that the growing presence of a new type of man—one brought up in a family in which the mother worked—has been a significant factor in the increase in female labor force participation over time. We present cross-sectional evidence showing that the wives of men whose mothers worked are themselves significantly more likely to work. We use variation in the importance of World War II as a shock to women’s labor force participation—as proxied by variation in the male draft rate across U. S. states—to provide evidence in support of the intergenerational consequences of our propagation mechanism.
Does macroeconomic volatility/uncertainty affect accumulation of net foreign assets? In OECD economies over the period 1970-2012, changes in country specific aggregate volatility are, after controlling for a wide array of factors, significantly positively associated with net foreign asset position. An increase in volatility (measured as the standard deviation of GDP growth) of 0.5% over period of 10 years is associated with an increase in the net foreign assets of around 8% of GDP. A standard open economy model with time varying aggregate uncertainty can quantitatively account for this relationship. The key mechanism is precautionary motive: more uncertainty induces residents to save more, and higher savings are in part channeled into foreign assets. We conclude that both data and theory suggest uncertainty/volatility is an important determinant of the medium/long run evolution of external imbalances in developed countries.
Does the pattern of social connections between individuals matter for macroeconomic outcomes? If so, how does this effect operate and how big is it? Using network analysis tools, we explore how different social structures affect technology diffusion and thereby a country’s rate of technological progress. The network model also explains why societies with a high prevalence of contagious disease might evolve toward growth-inhibiting social institutions and how small initial differences can produce large divergence in incomes. Empirical work uses differences in the prevalence of diseases spread by human contact and the prevalence of other diseases as an instrument to identify an effect of social structure on technology diffusion.
This paper documents, using county level data, some geographical features of the US business cycle over the past 30 years, with particular focus on the Great Recession. It shows that county level unemployment rates are spatially dispersed and spatially correlated, and documents how these characteristics evolve during recessions. It then shows that some of these features of county data can be generated by a model which includes simple channels of transmission of economic conditions from a county to its neighbors. The model suggests that these local channels are quantitatively important for the amplification/muting of aggregate shocks.
In the last century, the evolution of female labor force participation has been S-shaped: It rose slowly at first, then quickly, and has leveled off recently. Central to this dramatic rise has been entry of women with young children. We argue that this S-shaped dynamic came from generations of women learning about the relative importance of nature (endowed ability) and nurture (time spent child-rearing) for children’s outcomes. Each generation updates their parents’ beliefs by observing the children of employed women. When few women participate in the labor force, most observations are uninformative and participation rises slowly. As information accumulates and the effects of labor force participation become less uncertain, more women participate, learning accelerates and labor force participation rises faster. As beliefs converge to the truth, participation flattens out. Survey data, wage data and participation data support our mechanism and distinguish it from alternative explanations.
The early 1980s marked the onset of two striking features of the current world macro-economy: the fall in US business cycle volatility (the “great moderation”) and the large and persistent US external imbalance. In this paper we argue that an external imbalance is a natural consequence of the great moderation. If a country experiences a fall in volatility greater than that of its partners, its relative incentives to accumulate precautionary savings fall and this results in an equilibrium permanent deterioration of its external balance. To assess how much of the current US imbalance can be explained by this channel, we consider a standard two country business cycle model in which households are subject to country specific shocks they cannot perfectly insure against. The model suggests that a fall in business cycle volatility like the one observed for the US relatively to other major economies can account for about 20% of the current total US external imbalance.
We study the effect of culture on important economic outcomes by using the 1970 census to examine the work and fertility behavior of women born in the U.S. but whose parents were born elsewhere. We use past female labor force participation and total fertility rates from the country of ancestry as our cultural proxies. These variables should capture, in addition to past economic and institutional conditions, the beliefs commonly held about the role of women in society (i.e., culture). Given the different time and place, only the beliefs embodied in the cultural proxies should be potentially relevant. We show that these cultural proxies have positive and significant explanatory power for individual work and fertility outcomes, even after controlling for possible indirect effects of culture. We examine alternative hypotheses for these positive correlations and show that neither unobserved human capital nor networks are likely to be responsible.
This paper presents intergenerational evidence in favor of the hypothesis that a significant factor explaining the increase in female labor force participation over time was the growing presence of men who grew up with a different family model–one in which their mother worked. We use differences in mobilization rates of men across states during WWII as a source of exogenous variation in female labor supply. We show, in particular, that higher WWII male mobilization rates led to a higher fraction of women working not only for the generation directly affected by the war, but also for the next generation. These women were young enough to profit from the changed composition in the pool of men (i.e., from the fact that WWII created more men with mothers who worked). We also show that states in which the ratio of the average fertility of working relative to non-working women is greatest, have higher female labor supply twenty years later.
This paper argues that the evolution of male preferences contributed to the dramatic increase in the proportion of working and educated women in the population over time. Male preferences evolved because some men experienced a different family model one in which their mother was skilled and/or worked. These men, we hypothesize, were more inclined to marry women who themselves were skilled or worked. Our model endogenizes the evolution of preferences in a dynamic setting and examines how it affected women’s education and labor choices. We present empirical evidence based on GSS data that favors our transmission mechanism. We show that men whose mothers were more educated or worked are more likely to marry similar women themselves.