Edward C. Prescott

Edward C. Prescott

Senior Monetary Advisor

prescott@minneapolisfed.org
CV
ASU Website

Interests:
Business cycles
Macroeconomics

Edward C. Prescott has been affiliated with the Bank since 1981 and currently serves as a senior monetary advisor. He also holds the W. P. Carey Chair at Arizona State University and is a Regents Professor. Prior to joining the ASU faculty in 2003, he held faculty positions at the University of Minnesota, the University of Chicago, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

In 2004 Ed was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics, jointly with Finn Kydland, “for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.” Prior to receiving this honor, he was awarded the 2002 Erwin Plein Nemmers Prize in Economics, was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992, a member of the National Academy of Science in 2008, a Fellow of the Econometrica Society in 1980, and was selected to be a Guggenheim Fellow for 1974–75. Students at Rochester chose him to deliver the inaugural Lionel McKenzie Lecture in 1990, and in 1997 students at the University of Pennsylvania selected him to deliver the inaugural Lawrence R. Klein Lecture. He was also selected to deliver the 2002 American Economic Association Richard T. Ely Lecture.

RBC Methodology and the Development of Aggregate Economic Theory

This essay reviews the development of neoclassical growth theory, a unified theory of aggregate economic phenomena that was first used to study business cycles and aggregate labor supply. Subsequently, the theory has been used to understand asset pricing, growth miracles and disasters, monetary economics, capital accounts, aggregate public finance, economic development, and foreign direct investment.
The focus of this essay is on real business cycle (RBC) methodology. Those who employ the discipline behind the methodology to address various quantitative questions come up with essentially the same answer—evidence that the theory has a life of its own, directing researchers to essentially the same conclusions when they apply its discipline. Deviations from the theory sometimes arise and remain open for a considerable period before they are resolved by better measurement and extensions of the theory. Elements of the discipline include selecting a model economy or sometimes a set of model economies. The model used to address a specific question or issue must have a consistent set of national accounts with all the accounting identities holding. In addition, the model assumptions must be consistent across applications and be consistent with micro as well as aggregate observations. Reality is complex, and any model economy used is necessarily an abstraction and therefore false. This does not mean, however, that model economies are not useful in drawing scientific inference.
The vast number of contributions made by many researchers who have used this methodology precludes reviewing them all in this essay. Instead, the contributions reviewed here are ones that illustrate methodological points or extend the applicability of neoclassical growth theory. Of particular interest will be important developments subsequent to the Cooley (1995) volume, Frontiers of Business Cycle Research. The interaction between theory and measurement is emphasized because this is the way in which hard quantitative sciences progress.

Equilibrium with Mutual Organizations in Adverse Selection Economies

We develop an equilibrium concept in the Debreu (1954) theory of value tradition for a class of adverse selection economies which includes the Spence (1973) signaling and Rothschild-Stiglitz (1976) insurance environments. The equilibrium exists and is optimal. Further, all equilibria have the same individual type utility vector. The economies are large with a finite number of types that maximize expected utility on an underlying commodity space. An implication of the analysis is that the invisible hand works for this class of adverse selection economies.

Quid Pro Quo: Technology Capital Transfers for Market Access in China

By the 1970s, quid pro quo policy, which requires multinational firms to transfer technology in return for market access, had become a common practice in many developing countries. While many countries have subsequently liberalized quid pro quo requirements, China continues to follow the policy. In this article, we incorporate quid pro quo policy into a multicountry dynamic general equilibrium model, using microevidence from Chinese patents to motivate key assumptions about the terms of the technology transfer deals and macroevidence on China’s inward foreign direct investment (FDI) to estimate key model parameters. We then use the model to quantify the impact of China’s quid pro quo policy and show that it has had a significant impact on global innovation and welfare.

Interest on Reserves, Policy Rules and Quantitative Easing

Hundred percent reserve transaction banking system is proposed with tax-free interest on demand deposits and interest bearing reserves. To eliminate shadow banking arrangements, a 100% tax on net interest income is proposed for limited liability businesses. All financing of businesses would be mutual as currently most is. With this arrangement there would be no bank runs associated giving rise to a financial crisis.

A Reassessment of Real Business Cycle Theory

During the downturn of 2008–2009, output and hours fell significantly, but labor productivity rose. These facts have led many to conclude that there is a significant deviation between observations and current macrotheories that assume business cycles are driven, at least in part, by fluctuations in total factor productivities of firms. We show that once investment in intangible capital is included in the analysis, there is no inconsistency. Measured labor productivity rises if the fall in output is underestimated; this occurs when there are large unmeasured intangible investments. Microevidence suggests that these investments are large and cyclically important.

Aggregate Labor Supply

Macroeconomics has made tremendous advances following the introduction of labor supply into the field. Today, it is widely acknowledged that labor supply matters for many key economic issues, particularly for business cycles and tax policy analysis. However, the extent to which labor supply matters for such questions depends on the aggregate labor supply elasticity—that is, the sensitivity of the time allocation between market and nonmarket activities. For several decades, the magnitude of the aggregate labor supply elasticity has been the subject of much debate. In this article, we review the debate and conclude that the elasticity of labor supply of the aggregate household is much higher than the elasticity of the identical households being aggregated. The aggregate household utility function differs from the individuals’ utility functions for the same reason that the aggregate production function differs from the individual firms’ production functions being aggregated. The differences in individual and aggregate supply elasticities are what aggregation theory predicts.

The Great Recession and Delayed Economic Recovery: A Labor Productivity Puzzle?

More Time on the Job

“Asia Booming, US Depressed, and Europe Stagnating,” Distinguished Lecture Commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Founding of Tamkang University

Costly Financial Intermediation In Neoclassical Growth Theory

The neoclassical growth model is extended to include costly intermediated borrowing and lending between households. This is an important extension as substantial resources are used to intermediate the large amount of borrowing and lending between households. In 2007, in the United States, the amount intermediated was 1.7 times gross national product (GNP), and the resources used in this intermediation amounted to at least 3.4 percent of GNP. The theory implies that financial intermediation services are an intermediate good, and that the spread between borrowing and lending rates measures the efficiency of the financial sector.

Unmeasured Investment and the Puzzling US Boom in the 1990s

For the 1990s, the basic neoclassical growth model predicts a depressed economy, when in fact the US economy boomed. We extend the base model by introducing intangible investment and non-neutral technology change with respect to producing intangible investment goods and find that the 1990s are not puzzling in light of this new theory. There is microeconomic and macroeconomic evidence motivating our extension, and the theory’s predictions are in conformity with US national accounts and capital gains. We compare accounting measures with corresponding measures for our model economy and find that standard accounting measures greatly understate the 1990s boom.

Technology Capital and the US Current Account

The US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that the return on investments of foreign subsidiaries of US multinational companies over the period 1982-2006 averaged 9.4 percent annually after taxes; US subsidiaries of foreign multinationals averaged only 3.2 percent. BEA returns on foreign direct investment (FDI) are distorted because most intangible investments made by multinationals are expensed. We develop a multicountry general equilibrium model with an essential role for FDI and apply the BEA’s methodology to construct economic statistics for the model economy. We estimate that mismeasurement of intangible investments accounts for over 60 percent of the difference in BEA returns.

Introduction to Dynamic General Equilibrium

Openness, Technology Capital, and Development

In this paper, we extend the growth model to include firm-specific technology capital and use it to assess the gains from opening to foreign direct investment. A firm’s technology capital is its unique know-how from investing in research and development, brands, and organization capital. Technology capital is distinguished from other forms of capital in that a firm can use it simultaneously in multiple domestic and foreign locations. A country can exploit foreign technology capital by permitting direct investment by foreign multinationals. In both steady-state and transitional analyses, the extended growth model predicts large gains to being open.

Lifetime Aggregate Labor Supply with Endogenous Workweek Length

This paper studies lifetime aggregate labor supply with endogenous workweek length. Such a theory is needed to evaluate various government policies. A key feature of our model is a nonlinear mapping from hours worked to labor services. This gives rise to an endogenous workweek that can differ across occupations. The theory determines what fraction of the lifetime an individual works, not when. We find that constraints on workweek length have different consequences for total hours than for total labor services. Also, we find that policies designed to increase the length of the working life may not increase aggregate lifetime labor supply.

The Depressing Effect of Agricultural Institutions on the Prewar Japanese Economy

Why didn’t the Japanese miracle take place before World War II? The culprit we identify is a barrier that kept prewar agricultural employment constant. Using a standard neoclassical two‐sector growth model, we show that the barrier‐induced sectoral distortion and an ensuring lack of capital accumulation account well for the depressed output level. Without the barrier, Japan’s prewar GNP per worker would have been at least about a half of that of the United States, not about a third as in the data. The labor barrier existed because, we argue, the prewar patriarchy forced the son designated as heir to stay in agriculture.

My Development as an Economist: The Joy of Being a Teacher-Researcher

The Equity Premium: ABCs

Non-Risk-Based Explanations of the Equity Premium

On the Needed Quantity of Government Debt

People are enjoying longer retirement periods, and population growth is slowing and, in some countries, falling. In this article, we determine the implications of these demographic changes for the needed amount of government debt. If tax rates and the transfer share of gross national income (GNI) are both high, the needed debt is near zero. With such a system, however, huge deadweight losses are incurred as a result of the high tax rate on labor income. With a savings system, a large government debt to annual GNI ratio is needed. In a country with early retirement and no population growth, the needed government debt is as large as five times GNI, and welfare is as much as 24 percent higher in terms of lifetime consumption equivalents in the savings system relative to the tax-and-transfer system.

Nobel Lecture: The Transformation of Macroeconomic Policy and Research

What I am going to describe for you is a revolution in macroeconomics, a transformation in methodology that has reshaped how we conduct our science. Prior to the transformation, macroeconomics was largely separate from the rest of economics. Indeed, some considered the study of macroeconomics fundamentally different and thought there was no hope of integrating macroeconomics with the rest of economics, that is, with neoclassical economics. Others held the view that neoclassical foundations for the empirically determined macro relations would in time be developed. Neither view proved correct.

What a Country Must Do to Catch Up to the Industrial Leaders

What, if anything, can a country today do to catch-up with the industrial leaders? This paper reviews a theory of the evolution of international income levels and examines its predictions for catch-up. The main policy implication of this theory is that a country will catch-up to the industrial leaders if it eliminates policies that constrain the choice of technologies and work practices of its citizenry. Most often these policies exist to protect specialized factor suppliers and corporate interests. We examine the record of catch-up over the twentieth century and conclude that joining a free trade club is an effective way by which a country can eliminate these constraints.

On Equilibrium for Overlapping Generations Organizations

Necessary conditions for equilibrium are that beliefs about the behavior of other agents are rational and individuals maximize. We argue that in stationary OLG environments this implies that any future generation in the same situation as the initial generation must do as well as the initial generation did in that situation. We conclude that the existing equilibrium concepts in the literature do not satisfy this condition. We then propose an alternative equilibrium concept, organizational equilibrium that satisfies this condition. We show that equilibrium exists, it is unique, and it improves over autarky without achieving optimality. Moreover, the equilibrium can be readily found by solving a maximization program.

Taxes, Regulations, and the Value of U.S. and U.K. Corporations

We derive the quantitative implications of growth theory for U.S. corporate equity plus net debt over the period 1960–2001. There were large secular movements in corporate equity values relative to GDP, with dramatic declines in the 1970’s and dramatic increases starting in the 1980’s and continuing throughout the 1990’s. During the same period, there was little change in the capital—output ratio or earnings share of output. We ask specifically whether the theory accounts for these observations. We find that it does, with the critical factor being changes in the U.S. tax and regulatory system. We find that the theory also accounts for the even larger movements in U.K. equity values relative to GDP in this period.

Capacity Constraints, Asymmetries, and the Business Cycle

We study how an occasionally binding capacity constraint affects the properties of business cycles. A real business cycle model is constructed where production takes place at individual plants and the number of plants operated varies over the cycle. The capacity constraint binds in states where all plants are operated. We derive the aggregate production function for this economy, which turns out to differ from the standard Cobb–Douglas function while retaining its desirable properties. The business cycle features of this one-sector growth model are similar to those of a standard real business cycle model in most respects. Our model does, however, display some properties of actual economies that standard models do not. In particular, business cycles in our model are asymmetric—troughs are deeper on average than peaks are tall. Also, labor’s share of income is counter-cyclical, as it is in US data.

Productivity and the Post-1990 U.S. Economy

In this paper, the authors show that ignoring corporate intangible investments gives a distorted picture of the post-1990 U.S. economy. In particular, ignoring intangible investments in the late 1990s leads one to conclude that productivity growth was modest, corporate profits were low, and corporate investment was at moderate levels. In fact, the late 1990s was a boom period for productivity growth, corporate profits, and corporate investment.

Nonconvexities in Quantitative General Equilibrium Studies of Business Cycles

The Elasticity of Labor Supply and the Consequences for Tax Policy

A Unified Theory of the Evolution of International Income Levels

This chapter develops a theory of the evolution of international income levels. In particular, it augments the Hansen–Prescott theory of economic development with the Parente–Prescott theory of relative efficiencies and shows that the unified theory accounts for the evolution of international income levels over the last millennium. The essence of this unified theory is that a country starts to experience sustained increases in its living standard when production efficiency reaches a critical point. Countries reach this critical level of efficiency at different dates not because they have access to different stocks of knowledge, but rather because they differ in the amount of society-imposed constraints on the technology choices of their citizenry.

The 1929 Stock Market: Irving Fisher was Right

Many stock market analysts think that in 1929, at the time of the crash, stocks were overvalued. Irving Fisher argued just before the crash that fundamentals were strong and the stock market was undervalued. In this article, we use growth theory to estimate the fundamental value of corporate equity and compare it to actual stock valuations. Our estimate is based on values of productive corporate capital, both tangible and intangible, and tax rates on corporate income and distributions. The evidence strongly suggests that Fisher was right. Even at the 1929 peak, stocks were undervalued relative to the prediction of theory.

Why Do Americans Work So Much More Than Europeans?

Americans now work 50 percent more than do the Germans, French, and Italians. This was not the case in the early 1970s, when the Western Europeans worked more than Americans. This article examines the role of taxes in accounting for the differences in labor supply across time and across countries; in particular, the effective marginal tax rate on labor income. The population of countries considered is the G-7 countries, which are major advanced industrial countries. The surprising finding is that this marginal tax rate accounts for the predominance of differences at points in time and the large change in relative labor supply over time.

Average Debt and Equity Returns: Puzzling?

The Equity Premium in Retrospect

This paper is a critical review of the literature on the “equity premium puzzle≓. The puzzle, as originally articulated more than fifteen years ago, underscored the inability of the standard paradigm of Economics and Finance to explain the magnitude of the risk premium, that is, the return earned by a risky asset in excess of the return to a relatively riskless asset such as a U.S. government bond. The paper summarizes the historical experience for the USA and other industrialized countries and details the intuition behind the discrepancy between model prediction and empirical data. Various research approaches that have been proposed to enhance the model’s realism are detailed and, as such, the paper reviews the major directions of theoretical financial research over the past ten years. The author argues that the majority of the proposed resolutions fail along crucial dimensions and proposes a promising direction for future research.

Testing for Stock Market Overvaluation/Undervaluation

Introduction to Sunspots and Lotteries

This introduces the symposium on sunspots and lotteries. Two stochastic general-equilibrium concepts, sunspot equilibrium (SE) and lottery equilibrium (LE), are compared. It is shown that, for some general, pure-exchange economies which allow for consumption nonconvexities or moral hazards, the set of LE allocations is equivalent to the set of SE allocations provided that the randomizing device can generate events of any probability.

Lotteries, Sunspots, and Incentive Constraints

We study a prototypical class of exchange economies with private information and indivisibilities. We establish an equivalence between lottery equilibria and sunspot equilibria and show that the welfare and existence theorems hold. To establish these results, we introduce the concept of the stand-in consumer economy, which is a standard, convex, finite consumer, finite good, pure exchange economy. With decreasing absolute risk aversion and no indivisibilities, we prove that no lotteries are actually used in equilibrium. We provide a simple numerical example with increasing absolute risk aversion in which lotteries are necessarily used in equilibrium. We also show how the equilibrium allocation in this example can be implemented in a sunspot equilibrium.

Malthus to Solow

Prosperity and Depression: 2002 Richard T. Ely Lecture

Introduction: Great Depressions of the 20th Century

The papers in this issue study nine depressions—both from the interwar period in Europe and North America and from more recent times in Japan and Latin America—using a common framework. All of the papers rely on growth accounting to decompose changes in output into the portions due to changes in factor inputs and the portion due to the changes in efficiency with which these factors are used. All of the papers employ simple applied dynamic general equilibrium models. Collectively, these papers indicate that government policies that affect productivity and hours per working-age person are the crucial determinants of the great depressions of the 20th century.

The 1990s in Japan: A Lost Decade

This paper examines the Japanese economy in the 1990s, a decade of economic stagnation. We find that the problem is not a breakdown of the financial system, as corporations large and small were able to find financing for investments. There is no evidence of profitable investment opportunities not being exploited due to lack of access to capital markets. The problem then and today is a low productivity growth rate. Growth theory, treating TFP as exogenous, accounts well for the Japanese lost decade of growth. We think that research effort should be focused on what policy changes will allow productivity to again grow rapidly.

Business Cycle Theory: Methods and Problems

Is the Stock Market Overvalued?

The value of U.S. corporate equity in the first half of 2000 was close to 1.8 times U.S. gross national product (GNP). Some stock market analysts have argued that the market is overvalued at this level. We use a growth model with an explicit corporate sector and find that the market is correctly valued. In theory, the market value of equity plus debt liabilities should equal the value of productive assets plus debt assets. Since the net value of debt is currently low, the market value of equity should be approximately equal to the market value of productive assets. We find that the market value of productive assets, including both tangible and intangible assets and assets used outside the country by U.S. subsidiaries, is currently about 1.8 times GNP, the same as the market value of equity.

Monopoly Rights: A Barrier to Riches

Our thesis is that poor countries are poor because they employ arrangements for which the equilibrium outcomes are characterized by inferior technologies being used, and being used inefficiently. In this paper, we analyze the consequences of one such arrangement. In each industry, the arrangement enables a coalition of factor suppliers to be the monopoly seller of its input services to all firms using a particular production process. We find that eliminating this monopoly arrangement could well increase output by roughly a factor of 3 without any increase in inputs.

Some Observations on the Great Depression

The Great Depression in the United States was largely the result of changes in economic institutions that lowered the normal or steady-state market hours per person over 16. The difference in steady-state hours in 1929 and 1939 is over 20 percent. This is a large number, but differences of this size currently exist across the rich industrial countries. The somewhat depressed Japanese economy of the 1990s could very well be the result of workweek length constraints that were adopted in the early 1990s. These constraints lowered steady-state market hours. The failure of the Japanese people to display concern with the performance of their economy suggests that this reduction is what the Japanese people wanted. This is in sharp contrast with the United States in the 1930s when the American people wanted to work more.

Lawrence R. Klein Lecture 1997: Needed: A Theory of Total Factor Productivity

This paper evaluates the argument that differences in physical and intangible capital can account for the large international income differences that characterize the world economy today. The finding is that they cannot. Savings rate differences are of minor importance. What is all-important is total factor productivity (TFP). In addition, the paper presents industry evidence that TFPs differ across countries and time for reasons other than differences in the publicly available stock of technical knowledge. These findings lead me to conclude a theory of TFP is needed. This theory must account for differences in TFP that arise for reasons other than growth in the stock of technical knowledge.

Postwar U.S. Business Cycles: An Empirical Investigation

We propose a procedure for representing a time series as the sum of a smoothly varying trend component and a cyclical component. We document the nature of the comovements of the cyclical components of a variety of macroeconomic time series. We find that these comovements are very different than the corresponding comovements of the slowly varying trend components.

Real Returns on Government Debt: A General Equilibrium Quantitative Exploration

We extend and apply computable general equilibrium methods to the study of economies with both aggregate uncertainty and uninsured household-specific uncertainty. In our economies the government issues two types of assets: a small denomination, non-interest bearing asset, which we call currency, and a large denomination, interest bearing asset, which we call T-bills. We find that a real interest rate behavior similar to that observed in the U.S. can be sustained as equilibrium behavior in our class of economies. We also find that policy induced real interest rate changes that are perceived as being permanent have significant real effects and that these effects take a few years to be fully realized.

Valuation Equilibrium with Clubs

This paper considers model worlds in which there is a continuum of individuals who form finite-sized associations to undertake joint activities. We show how, through a suitable choice of commodity space, restrictions on the composition of feasible groups can be incorporated into the specification of the consumption and production sets of the economy. We also show that if there are a finite number of types, then the classical results from the competitive analysis of convex finite-agent economies can be reinterpreted to apply.

The Computational Experiment: An Econometric Tool

An economic experiment places people in an environment desired by the experimenter, who then records the time paths of their economic behavior. Performing experiments using actual people at the level of national economies is obviously impractical but constructing a model economy and computing the economic behavior of the model’s people is. Such experiments are termed ‘computational’ because economic behavior of the model’s people is computed. This essay specifies the steps in designing a computational experiment to address some well-posed quantitative question. The computational experiment is an econometric tool used in the task of deriving the quantitative implications of theory.

Introduction to the Symposium: The Discipline of Applied General Equilibrium

The use of general equilibrium models in applied research imposes a discipline in which model structures can easily be compared and contrasted and model results can be interpreted using a well understood and rigorously developed theoretical framework. These features allow researchers to compare results across modeling efforts and to build on the experience of others in deriving results and formulating questions. This paper first presents a brief critical history of applied general equilibrium analysis. It then summarizes the contributions of eight other papers in this issue.

Equilibrium Business Cycles with Idle Resources and Variable Capacity Utilization

A real business cycle economy is studied in which some capital is idle each period and the fraction of capital left idle varies in response to technology shocks. Previous equilibrium business cycle models have the characteristic that the entire stock of capital is used for production in each period. Our objective is to determine whether incorporating idle resources, something regularly observed in actual economies, significantly affects the cyclical properties of the model and hence changes our views about the importance of technology shocks for aggregate fluctuations. In our analysis we do not assume an aggregate production function, but instead model production as taking place at individual plants that are subject to idiosyncratic technology shocks. Each period the plant manager must choose whether to operate the plant or to let the plant remain idle. We find that the cyclical properties of this model are surprisingly similar to those of a standard real business cycle economy. One difference is that the model displays variation in factor shares while the standard models does not.

Economic Growth and Business Cycles

Recursive Methods for Computing Equilibria in Business Cycle Models

Barriers to Technology Adoption and Development

We propose a theory of economic development in which technology adoption and barriers to such adoptions are the focus. The size of these barriers differs across countries and time. The larger these barriers, the greater the investment a firm must make to adopt a more advanced technology. The model is calibrated to the U.S. balanced growth observations and the postwar Japanese development miracle. For this calibrated structure we find that the disparity in technology adoption barriers needed to account for the huge observed income disparity across countries is not implausibly large.

Did Technology Shocks Cause the 1990-1991 Recession?

Changes in the Wealth of Nations

This study systematically examines the distribution of the wealth of nations and how it has evolved over time. A nation’s wealth is measured by its real per-capita gross domestic product. The study documents the following key economic development facts that a theory of economic development must be consistent with: There is a great disparity in wealth between the richest and poorest countries. This disparity has changed little in the postwar period. There was an upward shift in the distribution of the wealth of nations. There has been considerable relative wealth mobility, with some spectacular changes for individual countries in the distribution.

Effects of Alternative Monetary Stabilization Policies: An Unexpected Finding

Cyclical Movements of the Labor Input and Its Implicit Real Price

The Firm and the Plant in General Equilibrium Theory

This chapter presents the firm and the plant into classical general equilibrium theory. The approach follows McKenzie’s approach in having a convex cone aggregate technology. McKenzie shows that this formulation is equivalent to the one of Arrow and Debreu, who assume a finite set of technologies and an ownership distribution. The nature of McKenzie’s argument is that a distinct entrepreneurial factor can be introduced for each firm. In the Arrow–Debreu setup, the quantities of these factors are normalized to one and distributed proportionally to ownership shares. Both the McKenzie and the Arrow–Debreu formulations are equivalent mathematically. They are not, however, equivalent from the perspective of economics. The approach of identifying each firm with a distinct technology set is not at all useful for developing a theory of industrial organizations. As McKenzie points out, when nonconvexities are small relative to the size of the economy and access to the underlying technologies is free, the aggregate production possibility set is approximately a convex cone.

Technology Adoption and the Mechanics of Economic Development

Stochastic Monotonicity and Stationary Distributions for Dynamic Economies

The existence and stability of invariant distributions for stochastically monotone processes is studied. The Knaster-Tarski fixed point theorem is applied to establish existence of fixed points of mappings on compact sets of measures that are increasing with respect to a stochastic ordering. Global convergence of a monotone Markov process to its unique invariant distribution is established under an easily verified assumption. Topkis’ theory of supermodular functions is applied to stochastic dynamic optimization, providing conditions under which optimal stationary decisions are monotone functions of the state and induce a monotone Markov process. Applications of these results to investment theory, stochastic growth, and industry equilibrium dynamics are given.

Banking in Computable General Equilibrium Economies

In this paper we develop a computable general equilibrium economy that models the banking sector explicitly. Banks intermediate between households and between the household sector and the government sector. Households borrow from banks to finance their purchases of houses and they lend to banks to save for retirement. Banks pool households’ savings and they purchase interest-bearing government debt and non-interest-bearing reserves. We use this structure to answer two sets of questions: one normative in nature that evaluates the welfare costs of alternative monetary and tax policies, and one positive in nature that studies the real effects of following a procyclical interest-rate policy rule.

Classical Competitive Analysis of Economies with Islands

Arrow-Debreu competitive equilibrium analysis is extended to environments with information sets differing in space as well as in time and with people moving between locations. Equilibrium is shown to exist and to be optimal, and the equilibrium price system is characterized. Such environments include many of those studies in the sectoral reallocation literature.

Insurance Contracts as Commodities: A Note

This paper extends recent developments in general equilibrium theory and applies them to the problem of measuring the real output of an economy’s insurance sector. These developments permit a priced commodity to be a complex incentive-compatible contract. These contracts are not bundles of more basic commodities. These contracts are elementary in the same sense that event-contingent goods deliveries are elementary in the Arrow-Debreu framework.

Real Business Cycle Theory: What Have We Learned?

Real business-cycle theory is the application of general equilibrium theory to the quantitative analysis of business-cycle fluctuations. The theory is real in the sense that there really is something there. In this review article I document that in applying established theory to quantitatively address business-cycle questions, a lot has been learned. We learned that business cycles are not deviations from this established theory, but rather are just what this theory predicts. In particular, we learned that business cycles are induced by highly persistent changes in those factors that determine the steady-state level of the deterministic growth model. Non persistent shocks do not induce fluctuations of the business-cycle variety. In this article I also discuss some methodological issues concerning judging and testing business cycle models.

Seigniorage as a Tax: A Quantitative Evaluation

Evaluating the Welfare Effects of Alternative Monetary Arrangements

The welfare effects of alternative monetary arrangements are computed for an economy calibrated to U.S. data. In the model world, people vary their holdings of liquid assets in order to smooth their consumption. In such worlds, we find that the feature of an arrangement that matters is the equilibrium after-tax real return on savings. We also find that relative to a tax on labor income, seigniorage is a poor source of revenue.

The Econometrics of the General Equilibrium Approach to Business Cycles

The founding fathers of the Econometric Society defined econometrics to be quantitative economic theory. A vision of theirs was the use of econometrics to provide quantitative answers to business cycle questions. The realization of this dream required a number of advances in pure theory – in particular, the development of modern general equilibrium theory. The econometric problem is how to use these tools along with measurement to answer business cycle questions. In this essay, we review this econometric development and contrast it with the econometric approach that preceded it.

Métodos recursivos para calcular equilibrios en modelos del ciclo económico

El análisis econométrico del enfoque de equilibrio general de los ciclos económicos

Measures of the Insurance Sector Output

Hours and Employment Variation in Business Cycle Theory

Previous business cycle models have made the assumption that all the variation in the labor input is either due to changes in hours per worker or changes in number of workers, but not both. In this paper, both vary. We think this is a better model for estimating the contribution of Solow technology shocks to aggregate fluctuations. We find that about 70% of the variance of U.S. postwar cyclical fluctuations is induced by variations in the Solow technology parameter.

Business Cycles: Real Facts and a Monetary Myth

This paper argues that the reporting of facts in light of theory fosters the development of theory. Dynamic neoclassical macro theory guided the selection of facts to report. The hope is that these facts will foster the further development of this theory. A finding is that the price level is countercyclical in the post-Korean War period. This finding debunks the myths that the price level is procyclical, with the postwar period being no exception.

Time Consistency and Policy

The Equity Risk Premium: A Solution?

This paper responds to Rietz’s (1988) proposed solution to the Equity Premium Puzzle. We explain why we do not consider his proposed solution to be a resolution of the puzzle and clarify what constitutes a possible solution.

Organizations in Economic Analysis

Three economic environments are reviewed, and in each, organizations play an essential role. For an adverse selection insurance economy, we find that when mutual insurance arrangements are permitted an equilibrium necessarily exists and is optimal. This example, and the two others, illustrate the problems that may result from imposing organizational structure on an environment rather than permitting the structure to be determined endogenously.

Robert M. Solow’s Neoclassical Growth Model: An Influential Contribution to Economics

The Workweek of Capital and its Cyclical Implications

The neoclassical growth model studied in the Kydland and Prescott ‘Time to Build’ paper is modified to permit the capital utilization rate to vary. The effect of this modification is to increase the amplitude of the aggregate fluctuations predicted by theory as the equilibrium response to technological shocks. If, following Solow, the changes in output not accounted for by changes in the labor and tangible capital inputs are interpreted as being the technology shocks, the statistical properties of the fluctuations in the postwar United States economy are close in magnitude and nature to those predicted by theory.

Dynamic Coalitions, Growth, and the Firm

In this study, we explore the implications of a dynamic coalition production technology in an equilibrium environment.¹ There are three major implications. One is that, even without exogenous technological change, with this technology there can be sustained growth in an economy’s per capita output. Economies that are identical except for their initial capital endowments grow at the same constant percentage rate; output in such economies does not tend to converge to the same level or to diverge.

Dynamic Coalitions: Engines of Growth

A Multiple Means-of-Payment Model

Theory Ahead of Business-Cycle Measurement

Response to a Skeptic

Financial Intermediary-Coalitions

In this article an environment in which the investment opportunities of agents are private information is studied and it is shown that financial intermediaries arise endogenously within that environment. It is established that financial intermediaries are part of an efficient arrangement in the sense that they are needed to support the authors’ private information core allocations. These intermediaries, which are coalitions of agents, exhibit the following characteristics in equilibrium: they borrow from and lend to large groups of agents; they produce information about investment projects; and they issue claims that have different state contingent payoffs than claims issued by ultimate borrowers.

The Equity Premium: A Puzzle

Restrictions that a class of general equilibrium models place upon the average returns of equity and Treasury bills are found to be strongly violated by the U.S. data in the 1889–1978 period. This result is robust to model specification and measurement problems. We conclude that, most likely, an equilibrium model which is not an Arrow-Debreu economy will be the one that simultaneously rationalizes both historically observed large average equity return and the small average risk-free return.

General Competitive Analysis in an Economy with Private Information

Pareto Optima and Competitive Equilibria with Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard

This paper explores the extent to which standard, general equilibrium analysis of Pareto optima and of competitive equilibria can be applied to environments with moral hazard and adverse selection problems. Allowing for lotteries, contracts with random components, we first establish that an adverse-selection insurance economy, a moral-hazard insurance economy, a signaling economy, and a private-information labor market economy are all special cases of a simple, general structure. We then show that techniques for characterizing Pareto optimal contracts as solutions to concave programming problems are useful and nice and appear to be broadly applicable; allowing for lotteries, we show how to characterize the optimal allocations for the adverse-selection insurance and labor market economies. We then show that standard existence and optimality theorems for competitive equilibria apply in the linear space containing lotteries if agents with characteristics which are distinct and privately observed at the time of initial trading enter the economy-wide resource constraints in a homogeneous way (other kinds of diversity are not critical). For economies with moral hazard which satisfy the homogeneity condition, competitive contract markets single out a subset of the optima and thus can be consistent with apparent unemployment and with a random allocation of labor supplied though all households are averse to risk. The adverse-selection insurance and signaling economies, however, do not satisfy the homogeneity condition and are difficult to decentralize efficiently with a price system.

Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations

The equilibrium growth model is modified and used to explain the cyclical variances of a set of economic time series, the covariances between real output and the other series, and the autocovariance of output. The model is fitted to quarterly data for the post-war U.S. economy. Crucial features of the model are the assumption that more than one time period is required for the construction of new productive capital, and the non-time-separable utility function that admits greater intertemporal substitution leisure. The fit is surprisingly good in light of the model’s simplicity and the small number of free parameters.

Recursive Competitive Equilibrium: The Case of Homogeneous Households

Recursive equilibrium theory is extended and generalized. Optimality of equilibria and supportability of optima are established in a direct way. Four economic applications are reformulated as recursive competitive equilibria and analyzed.

Organization Capital

The manner in which information is accumulated in the firm offers an explanation for the firm’s existence. Information is an asset to the firm, for it affects the production possibility set and is produced jointly with output. We call this asset of the firm its organization capital. The costs of adjusting the stock of organization capital induce the firm to constrain its growth rate, thus explaining certain facts about the firm growth and size distribution. Adjustment costs arise endogenously rather than being assumed.

Dynamic Optimal Taxation, Rational Expectations and Optimal Control

Within a rational expectations framework, policy has effect if it alters relative prices and policy evaluations are exercises in modern public finance theory. The time inconsistency of an optimal taxation plan precludes the use of standard control theory for its determination. In this article recursive methods are developed that overcome this difficulty. The technique is novel in that the constraint set as well as the value function are determined recursively. Even though there is little hope of the optimal plan being implemented – because of its time inconsistency – we think the exercise is of more than pedagogical interest. The optimal plan’s return is a benchmark with which to compare the time consistent solution under alternative institutional constraints which society might choose to impose upon itself.

A Competitive Theory of Fluctuations and the Feasibility and Desirability of Stabilization Policy

Can fiscal policy be used to stabilize the economy? In this essay we first develop an equilibrium theory of fluctuations consistent with the observed persistence of unemployment and then address this question within the framework of that theory. We conclude that fiscal policy rules, which alter relative prices facing firms and households, can and have had important effects upon the stability of the economy. Some rules increase fluctuations and others smooth out the business cycle. In choosing among rules the criterion used is the cost-benefit measure of neo-classical public finance, which has been applied to numerous problems involving important effects of government policies upon resource allocation. Our conclusion is that tax rates should remain constant or nearly constant over the cycle with the budget being balanced on average. This does not minimize fluctuations but does minimize the deadweight burden of financing government expenditures.

Equilibrium Under Uncertainty: Multi-Agent Statistical Decision Theory

Earnings and Employment Dynamics of Manpower Trainees: An Exploratory Econometric Analysis

Sequential Location Among Firms with Foresight

Existing theory poorly describes the product diversity in a modern market economy largely because such theory is founded on an inadequate concept of equilibrium. Standard analysis regards decision makers as naive in their anticipations of the response of rivals to their decisions and neglects the substantial costs of relocating in the product characteristic space. In this paper, we construct an equilibrium model of firms in which each firm locates in sequence with correct expectations of the way its decisions influence the decisions of firms yet to locate. The nature of the equilibrium is explored in a series of familiar examples taken from the literature.

Rules Rather than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans

Even if there is an agreed-upon, fixed social objective function and policymakers know the timing and magnitude of the effects of their actions, discretionary policy, namely, the selection of that decision which is best, given the current situation and a correct evaluation of the end-of-period position, does not result in the social objective function being maximized. The reason for this apparent paradox is that economic planning is not a game against nature but, rather, a game against rational economic agents. We conclude that there is no way control theory can be made applicable to economic planning when expectations are rational.

Should Control Theory be Used for Economic Stabilization?

In a genetic-historical view of the fundamental revolution in outlook which represents the real beginning of modern natural science was the discovery that the inert objects of nature are not like men, i.e., subject to persuasion, exhortation, coercion, deception, etc., but are “inexorable.” The position which we have to combat seems to rest upon an inference, characteristically drawn by the “best minds” of our race, that since natural objects are not like men, men must be like natural objects (Knight, 1941, p. 121).

Estimation in the Presence of Stochastic Parameter Variation

In this paper we consider the estimation of a model with time varying structure. The parameters of the model are assumed to be subject to permanent and transitory changes over time. Estimation methods are developed, and the asymptotic properties of the estimates are derived.

Efficiency of the Natural Rate

Optimal Stabilizations: A New Approach

Equilibrium Search and Unemployment

Market Structure and Monopoly Profits: A Dynamic Theory

Systematic (Non-Random) Variation Models: Varying Parameter Regression: A Theory And Some Applications

This paper develops a theory of varying parameter regression, involving transitory and permanent components of parameters. Convenient estimation procedures are then described, and applications to agricultural supply functions and capital markets are reviewed.

An Adaptive Regression Model

Tests of an Adaptive Regression Model

The Multi-Period Control Problem Under Uncertainty

The multi-period control problem analyzed assumes the data are generated by the simple regression model with an unknown slope coefficient. There is a tradeoff between stabilization and experimentation to learn more about the unknown coefficient. When parameter uncertainty is large, experimentation becomes an important consideration.

A Note on Price Systems in Infinite Dimensional Space

Adaptive Decision Rules for Macroeconomic Planning

Investment Under Uncertainty

This paper determines the time series behavior of investment, output, and prices in a competitive industry with a stochastic demand. It is shown, first, that the equilibrium development for the industry solves a particular dynamic programming problem (maximization of “consumer surplus”). This problem is then studied to determine the characteristics of the equilibrium paths.

Multiple Regression with Inequality Constraints: Pretesting Bias, Hypothesis Testing and Efficiency

This article analyzes, within the context of the standard multiple regression model, the problem of handling inequality constraints specifying the signs of certain regression coefficients. It is common econometric practice when regression coefficients are encountered with incorrect sign to delete the variables in question and reestimate the equation. This article shows that this procedure causes bias and can lead to inefficient parameter estimate. Furthermore, we show that grossly exaggerated statements concerning significance levels are likely to be made when other regression coefficients in the model are tested with the final regression obtained after deleting variables with incorrect sign.

Money, Multiplier Accelerator Interaction, and the Business Cycle

Collusion in Oligopoly: An Experiment on the Effect of Numbers and Information

Books

Barriers to Riches

Why isn’t the whole world as rich as the United States? Conventional views holds that differences in the share of output invested by countries account for this disparity. Not so, say Stephen Parente and Edward Prescott. In Barriers to Riches, Parente and Prescott argue that differences in Total Factor Productivity (TFP) explain this phenomenon. These differences exist because some countries erect barriers to the efficient use of readily available technology. The purpose of these barriers is to protect industry insiders with vested interests in current production processes from outside competition. Were this protection stopped, rapid TFP growth would follow in the poor countries, and the whole world would soon be rich.
Barriers to Riches reflects a decade of research by the authors on this question. Like other books on the subject, it makes use of historical examples and industry studies to illuminate potential explanations for income differences. Unlike these other books, however, it uses aggregate data and general equilibrium models to evaluate the plausibility of alternative explanations. The result of this approach is the most complete and coherent treatment of the subject to date.

Recursive Methods in Economic Dynamics

This rigorous but brilliantly lucid book presents a self-contained treatment of modern economic dynamics. Nancy L. Stokey, Robert E. Lucas, Jr., and Edward C. Prescott develop the basic methods of recursive analysis and illustrate the many areas where they can usefully be applied.
After presenting an overview of the recursive approach, the authors develop economic applications for deterministic dynamic programming and the stability theory of first-order difference equations. They then treat stochastic dynamic programming and the convergence theory of discrete-time Markov processes, illustrating each with additional economic applications. They also derive a strong law of large numbers for Markov processes. Finally, they present the two fundamental theorems of welfare economics and show how to apply the methods developed earlier to general equilibrium systems.
The authors go on to apply their methods to many areas of economics. Models of firm and industry investment, household consumption behavior, long-run growth, capital accumulation, job search, job matching, inventory behavior, asset pricing, and money demand are among those they use to show how predictions can he made about individual and social behavior. Researchers and graduate students in economic theory will find this book essential.

Edited Volumes

Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century

The worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s was a watershed for both economic thought and economic policymaking. It led to the belief that market economies are inherently unstable and to the revolutionary work of John Maynard Keynes. Its impact on popular economic wisdom is still apparent today.
This book, which uses a common framework to study sixteen depressions, from the interwar period in Europe and America as well as from more recent times in Japan and Latin America, challenges the Keynesian theory of depressions. It develops and uses a methodology for studying depressions that relies on growth accounting and the general equilibrium growth model.
Each chapter of the book is accompanied by a data file that contains all of the data used in the analysis. This Web page also provides links to computer programs for applying the methodology.

Contractual Arrangements for Intertemporal Trade

An Aggregate Model for Policy Analysis with Demographic Change

Many countries are facing challenging fiscal financing issues as their populations age and the number of workers per retiree falls. Policymakers need transparent and robust analyses of alternative policies to deal with demographic changes. In this paper, we propose a simple framework that can easily be matched to aggregate data from the national accounts. We demonstrate the usefulness of our framework by comparing quantitative results for our aggregate model with those of a related model that includes within-age-cohort heterogeneity through productivity differences. When we assess proposals to switch from the current tax and transfer system in the United States to a mandatory saving-for-retirement system with no payroll taxation, we find that the aggregate predictions for the two models are close.

Monetary policy with 100 Percent Reserve Banking: An Exploration

We explore monetary policy in a world without fractional reserve banking. In our world, banks are purely transaction institutions. Money is a form of government debt that bears interest, which can be negative as well as positive. Services of money are a factor of production. We show that the national accounts must be revised in this world. Using our baseline economy, we determine a balanced growth path for a set of money interest rate policy regimes. Besides this interest rate, the only policy variable that differs across regimes is the labor income tax rate. Within this set of policy regimes, there is a balanced growth welfare-maximizing regime. We show that Friedman monetary satiation without deflation is possible in this world. We also examine a set of inflation rate targeting regimes. Here, the only other policy variable that differs across regimes is the inflation rate.

RBC Methodology and the Development of Aggregate Economic Theory

This essay reviews the development of neoclassical growth theory, a unified theory of aggregate economic phenomena that was first used to study business cycles and aggregate labor supply. Subsequently, the theory has been used to understand asset pricing, growth miracles and disasters, monetary economics, capital accounts, aggregate public finance, economic development, and foreign direct investment.
The focus of this essay is on real business cycle (RBC) methodology. Those who employ the discipline behind the methodology to address various quantitative questions come up with essentially the same answer—evidence that the theory has a life of its own, directing researchers to essentially the same conclusions when they apply its discipline. Deviations from the theory sometimes arise and remain open for a considerable period before they are resolved by better measurement and extensions of the theory. Elements of the discipline include selecting a model economy or sometimes a set of model economies. The model used to address a specific question or issue must have a consistent set of national accounts with all the accounting identities holding. In addition, the model assumptions must be consistent across applications and be consistent with micro as well as aggregate observations. Reality is complex, and any model economy used is necessarily an abstraction and therefore false. This does not mean, however, that model economies are not useful in drawing scientific inference.
The vast number of contributions made by many researchers who have used this methodology precludes reviewing them all in this essay. Instead, the contributions reviewed here are ones that illustrate methodological points or extend the applicability of neoclassical growth theory. Of particular interest will be important developments subsequent to the Cooley (1995) volume, Frontiers of Business Cycle Research. The interaction between theory and measurement is emphasized because this is the way in which hard quantitative sciences progress.

On Financing Retirement with an Aging Population

A problem that faces many countries including the United States is how to finance retirement consumption as the population ages. Proposals for switching to a saving-for-retirement system that do not rely on high payroll taxes have been challenged on the grounds that welfare would fall for some groups such as retirees or the working poor. We show how to devise a transition path from the current U.S. system to a saving-for-retirement system that increases the welfare of all current and future generations, with estimates of future gains higher than those found in typically used macroeconomic models. The gains are large because there is more productive capital than commonly assumed. Furthermore, the gains are amplified if we lower capital income taxes in addition to payroll taxes, because the value of business equity increases relative to the capital stock. Our quantitative results depend importantly on accounting for differences between actual government tax revenues and what revenues would be if all income were taxed at the income-weighted average marginal tax rates used in our analysis.

Equilibrium with Mutual Organizations in Adverse Selection Economies

We develop an equilibrium concept in the Debreu (1954) theory of value tradition for a class of adverse selection economies which includes the Spence (1973) signaling and Rothschild-Stiglitz (1976) insurance environments. The equilibrium exists and is optimal. Further, all equilibria have the same individual type utility vector. The economies are large with a finite number of types that maximize expected utility on an underlying commodity space. An implication of the analysis is that the invisible hand works for this class of adverse selection economies.

Quid Pro Quo: Technology Capital Transfers for Market Access in China

By the 1970s, quid pro quo policy, which requires multinational firms to transfer technology in return for market access, had become a common practice in many developing countries. While many countries have subsequently liberalized quid pro quo requirements, China continues to follow the policy. In this paper, we incorporate quid pro quo policy into a multicountry dynamic general equilibrium model, using microevidence from Chinese patents to motivate key assumptions about the terms of the technology transfer deals and macroevidence on China’s inward foreign direct investment (FDI) to estimate key model parameters. We then use the model to quantify the impact of China’s quid pro quo policy and show that it has had a significant impact on global innovation and welfare.

The Costs of Quid Pro Quo

To gain access to its markets, the Chinese government sometimes requires high-technology foreign firms to transfer partial property rights to their technology. Because the Chinese market is large and potentially lucrative, major multinationals typically agree to this quid pro quo policy, often through joint ventures with Chinese firms.
We use a quantitative macroeconomic model to analyze the effects of this policy on firm investment incentives, Chinese technology goals, and overall international technology and investment flows.

A Reassessment of Real Business Cycle Theory

During the downturn of 2008–2009, output and hours fell significantly while labor productivity rose. These facts have led many to conclude that there is a significant deviation between observations and current macrotheories that assume business cycles are driven, at least in part, by fluctuations in total factor productivities of firms. We show that once investment in intangible capital is included in the analysis, there is no inconsistency. Measured labor productivity rises if the fall in output is underestimated; this occurs when there are large unmeasured intangible investments. Microevidence suggests that these investments are large and cyclically important.

The Labor Productivity Puzzle

Prior to the mid-1980s, labor productivity growth was a useful barometer of the U.S. economy’s performance: it was low when the economy was depressed and high when it was booming. Since then, labor productivity has become significantly less procyclical. In the recent downturn of 2008–2009, labor productivity actually rose as GDP plummeted. These facts have motivated the development of new business cycle theories because the conventional view is that they are inconsistent with existing business cycle theory. In this paper, we analyze recent events with existing theory and find that the labor productivity puzzle is much less of a puzzle than previously thought. In light of these findings, we argue that policy agendas arising from new untested theories should be disregarded.

On Efficiently Financing Retirement

A problem facing the United States and many other countries is how to finance retirement consumption as the number of their workers per retiree falls. The problem with a savings for retirement systems is that there is a shortage of good savings opportunities given the nature of most current tax systems and governments’ limited ability to honor the debt it issues. We find that eliminating capital income taxes will greatly increase saving opportunities and make a savings-for-retirement system feasible with only modest amount of government debt. The switch from a system close to the current U.S. retirement system, which relies heavily on taxing workers’ incomes and making lump-sum transfers to retirees, to one without income taxes will increase the welfare of all birth-year cohorts alive today and particularly the welfare of the yet unborn cohorts. The equilibrium paths for the current and alternative policies are computed.

Technology Capital Transfer

It is widely believed that an important factor underlying the rapid growth in China is increased foreign direct investment (FDI) and the transfer of foreign technology capital, which is accumulated know-how from investment in research and development (R&D), brands, and organizations that is not specific to a plant. In this paper, we study two channels through which FDI can contribute to upgrading of the stock of technology capital: knowledge spillovers and appropriation. Knowledge spillovers lead to new ideas that do not directly compete or devalue the foreign affiliate’s stock. Appropriation, on the other hand, implies a redistribution of property rights over patents and trademarks; the gain to domestic companies comes at a loss to the multinational company (MNC). In this paper we build these sources of technology capital transfer into the framework developed by McGrattan and Prescott (2009, 2010) and introduce an endogenously-chosen intensity margin for operating technology capital in order to capture the trade-offs MNCs face when expanding their markets internationally. We first demonstrate that abstracting from technology capital transfers results in predicted bilateral FDI inflows to China that are grossly at odds with the data. We then use the bilateral inflows to parameterize the model with technology capital transfers and compute the global economic impact of Chinese policies that encouraged greater inflows of FDI and technology capital transfers. Microevidence on automobile patents is used to support our parameter choices and main findings.

Costly Financial Intermediation in Neoclassical Growth Theory

The neoclassical growth model is extended to include costly intermediated borrowing and lending between households. This is an important extension as substantial resources are used in intermediating the large amount of borrowing and lending between households. In 2007, in the United States, the amount intermediated was 1.7 times GNP, and the resources used in this intermediation amounted to at least 3.4 percent of GNP. The theory implies that financial intermediation services are an intermediate good and that the spread between borrowing and lending rates measures the efficiency of the financial sector.

Aggregate Labor Supply

There have been tremendous advances in macroeconomics, following the introduction of labor supply into the field. Today it is widely acknowledged that labor supply matters for many key economic issues, particularly for business cycles and tax policy analysis. However, the extent to which labor supply matters for such questions depends on the aggregate labor supply elasticity—that is, the sensitivity of the time allocation between market and non-market activities to changes in the effective wage. The magnitude of the aggregate labor supply elasticity has been the subject of much debate for several decades. In this paper we review this debate and conclude that the elasticity of labor supply of the aggregate household is much higher than the elasticity of the identical households being aggregated. The aggregate household utility function differs from individuals’ utility functions for the same reason the aggregate production function differs from individual firms’ production functions being aggregated. The differences in individual and aggregate supply elasticities are what aggregation theory predicts.

Unmeasured Investment and the Puzzling U.S. Boom in the 1990s

For the 1990s, the basic neoclassical growth model predicts a depressed economy, when in fact the U.S. economy boomed. We extend the base model by introducing intangible investment and non-neutral technology change with respect to producing intangible investment goods and find that the 1990s are not puzzling in light of this new theory. There is micro and macro evidence motivating our extension, and the theory’s predictions are in conformity with U.S. national accounts and capital gains. We compare accounting measures with corresponding measures for our model economy. We find that standard accounting measures greatly understate the 1990s boom.

Technology Capital and the U.S. Current Account

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates the return on investments of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. multinational companies over the period 1982–2006 averaged 9.4 percent annually after taxes; U.S. subsidiaries of foreign multinationals averaged only 3.2 percent. Two factors distort BEA returns: technology capital and plant-specific intangible capital. Technology capital is accumulated know-how from intangible investments in R&D, brands, and organizations that can be used in foreign and domestic locations. Used abroad, it generates profits for foreign subsidiaries with no foreign direct investment (FDI). Plant-specific intangible capital in foreign subsidiaries is expensed abroad, lowering current profits on FDI and increasing future profits. We develop a multicountry general equilibrium model with an essential role for FDI and apply the BEA’s methodology to construct economic statistics for the model economy. We estimate that mismeasurement of intangible investments accounts for over 60 percent of the difference in BEA returns.

Using the General Equilibrium Growth Model to Study Great Depressions: A Reply to Temin

Three of the arguments made by Temin (2008) in his review of Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century are demonstrably wrong: that the treatment of the data in the volume is cursory; that the definition of great depressions is too general and, in particular, groups slow growth experiences in Latin America in the 1980s with far more severe great depressions in Europe in the 1930s; and that the book is an advertisement for the real business cycle methodology. Without these three arguments — which are the results of obvious conceptual and arithmetical errors, including copying the wrong column of data from a source — his review says little more than that he does not think it appropriate to apply our dynamic general equilibrium methodology to the study of great depressions, and he does not like the conclusion that we draw: that a successful model of a great depression needs to be able to account for the effects of government policy on productivity.

Openness, Technology Capital, and Development

In this paper, we extend the growth model to include firm-specific technology capital and use it to assess the gains from opening to foreign direct investment. A firm’s technology capital is its unique know-how from investing in research and development, brands, and organization capital. Technology capital is distinguished from other forms of capital in that a firm can use it simultaneously in multiple domestic and foreign locations. A country can exploit foreign technology capital by permitting direct investment by foreign multinationals. In both steady-state and transitional analyses, the extended growth model predicts large gains to being open.

Technology Capital and the U.S. Current Account

Over the period 1982–2006, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates the return on investments of foreign subsidiaries of U.S. multinational companies averaged 9.4 percent per year after taxes while U.S. subsidiaries of foreign multinationals earned on average only 3.2 percent. We estimate the importance of two factors that distort BEA returns: technology capital and plant-specific intangible capital. Technology capital is accumulated know-how from intangible investments in R&D, brands, and organizations that can be used in foreign and domestic locations. Technology capital used abroad generates profits for foreign subsidiaries with no foreign direct investment. Plant-specific intangible capital in foreign subsidiaries is expensed abroad, lowering current profits on foreign direct investment (FDI) and increasing future profits. We develop a multicountry general equilibrium model with an essential role for FDI and apply the same methodology as the BEA to construct economic statistics for the model economy. We estimate that mismeasurement of intangible investments accounts for over 60 percent of the difference in BEA returns.

Lifetime Aggregate Labor Supply with Endogenous Workweek Length

This paper studies lifetime aggregate labor supply with endogenous workweek length. Such a theory is needed to evaluate various government policies. A key feature of our model is a nonlinear mapping from hours worked to labor services. This gives rise to an endogenous workweek that can differ across occupations. The theory determines what fraction of the lifetime an individual works, not when. We find that constraints on workweek length have different consequences for total hours than total labor services. Also, we find that policies designed to increase the length of the working life may not increase aggregate lifetime labor supply.

Openness, Technology Capital, and Development

A framework is developed with what we call technology capital. A country is a measure of locations. Absent policy constraints, a firm owning a unit of technology capital can produce the composite output good using the unit of technology capital at as many locations as it chooses. But it can operate only one operation at a given location, so the number of locations is what constrains the number of units it operates using this unit of technology capital. If it has two units of technology capital, it can operate twice as many operations at every location. In this paper, aggregation is carried out and the aggregate production functions for the countries are derived. Our framework interacts well with the national accounts in the same way as does the neoclassical growth model. It also interacts well with the international accounts. There are constant returns to scale, and therefore no monopoly rents. Yet there are gains to being economically integrated. In the framework, a country’s openness is measured by the effect of its policies on the productivity of foreign operations. Our analysis indicates that there are large gains to this openness.

On the Needed Quantity of Government Debt

People are having longer retirement periods, and population growth is slowing and has even stopped in some countries. In this paper we determined the implications of these changes for the needed amount of government debt. The needed debt is near zero if there are high tax rates and the transfer share of gross national income (GNI) is high. But, with such a system there are huge dead-weight losses as the result of the high tax rate on labor income. With a savings system, a large government debt to annual GNI ratio is needed, as large as 5 times GNI, and welfare is as much as 24 percent higher in terms of lifetime consumption equivalents than the tax-and-transfer system.

Expensed and Sweat Equity

Expensed investments are expenditures financed by the owners of capital that increase future profits but, by national accounting rules, are treated as an operating expense rather than as a capital expenditure. Sweat investment is financed by worker-owners who allocate time to their business and receive compensation at less than their market rate. Such investments are made with the expectation of realizing capital gains when the business goes public or is sold. But these investments are not included in GDP. Taking into account hours spent building equity while ignoring the output introduces an error in measured productivity and distorts the picture of what is happening in the economy. In this paper, we incorporate expensed and sweat equity in an otherwise standard business cycle model. We use the model to analyze productivity in the United States during the 1990s boom. We find that expensed plus sweat investment was large during this period and critical for understanding the dramatic rise in hours and the modest growth in measured productivity.

The Transformation of Macroeconomic Policy and Research

Edward C. Prescott’s Speech at the Nobel Banquet

Productivity and the Post-1990 U.S. Economy

In this paper, we show that ignoring corporate intangible investments gives a distorted picture of the post-1990 U.S. economy. In particular, ignoring intangible investments in the late 1990s leads one to conclude that productivity growth was modest, corporate profits were low, and corporate investment was at moderate levels. In fact, the late 1990s was a boom period for productivity growth, corporate profits, and corporate investment.

Taxes, Regulations, and the Value of U.S. and U.K. Corporations

We derive the quantitative implications of growth theory for U.S. corporate equity plus net debt over the period 1960–2001. There were large secular movements in corporate equity values relative to GDP, with dramatic declines in the 1970s and dramatic increases starting in the 1980s and continuing throughout the 1990s. During the same period, there was little change in the capital-output ratio or earnings share of output. We ask specifically whether the theory accounts for these observations. We find that it does, with the critical factor being changes in the U.S. tax and regulatory system. We find that the theory also accounts for the even larger movements in U.K. equity values relative to GDP in this period.

A Unified Theory of the Evolution of International Income Levels

This essay develops a theory of the evolution of international income levels. In particular, it augments the Hansen-Prescott theory of economic development with the Parente-Prescott theory of relative efficiencies and shows that the unified theory accounts for the evolution of international income levels over the last millennium. The essence of this unified theory is that a country starts to experience sustained increases in its living standard when production efficiency reaches a critical point. Countries reach this critical level of efficiency at different dates not because they have access to different stocks of knowledge, but rather because they differ in the amount of society-imposed constraints on the technology choices of their citizenry.

The 1929 Stock Market: Irving Fisher Was Right

Many stock market analysts think that in 1929, at the time of the crash, stocks were overvalued. Irving Fisher argued just before the crash that fundamentals were strong and the stock market was undervalued. In this paper, we use growth theory to estimate the fundamental value of corporate equity and compare it to actual stock valuations. Our estimate is based on values of productive corporate capital, both tangible and intangible, and tax rates on corporate income and distributions. The evidence strongly suggests that Fisher was right. Even at the 1929 peak, stocks were undervalued relative to the prediction of theory.

Why Do Americans Work So Much More Than Europeans?

Americans now work 50 percent more than do the Germans, French, and Italians. This was not the case in the early 1970s when the Western Europeans worked more than Americans. In this paper, I examine the role of taxes in accounting for the differences in labor supply across time and across countries, in particular, the effective marginal tax rate on labor income. The population of countries considered is that of the G-7 countries, which are major advanced industrial countries. The surprising finding is that this marginal tax rate accounts for the predominance of the differences at points in time and the large change in relative labor supply over time with the exception of the Italian labor supply in the early 1970s.

Non-Convexities in Quantitative General Equilibrium Studies of Business Cycles

This paper reviews the role of micro non-convexities in the study of business cycles. One important non-convexity arises because an individual can work only one workweek length in a given week. The implication of this non-convexity is that the aggregate intertemporal elasticity of labor supply is large and the principal margin of adjustment is in the number employed—not in the hours per person employed—as observed. The paper also reviews a business cycle model with an occasionally binding capacity constraint. This model better mimics business cycle fluctuations than the standard real business cycle model. Aggregation in the presence of micro non-convexities is key in the model.

Average Debt and Equity Returns: Puzzling?

Mehra and Prescott (1985) found the difference between average equity and debt returns puzzling because it was too large to be a premium for bearing nondiversifiable aggregate risk. Here, we re-examine this puzzle, taking into account some factors ignored by Mehra and Prescott—taxes, regulatory constraints, and diversification costs—and focusing on long-term rather than short-term savings instruments. Accounting for these factors, we find the difference between average equity and debt returns during peacetime in the last century is less than 1 percent, with the average real equity return somewhat under 5 percent, and the average real debt return almost 4 percent. As theory predicts, the real return on debt has been close to the 4 percent average after-tax real return on capital. Similarly, as theory predicts, the real return on equity is equal to the after-tax real return on capital plus a modest premium for bearing nondiversifiable aggregate risk.

Prosperity and Depression: 2002 Richard T. Ely Lecture

Taxes, Regulations, and Asset Prices

U.S. stock prices have increased much faster than gross domestic product GDP) in the postwar period. Between 1962 and 2000, corporate equity value relative to GDP nearly doubled. In this paper, we determine what standard growth theory says the equity value should be in 1962 and 2000, the two years for which our steady-state assumption is a reasonable one. We find that the actual valuations were close to the theoretical predictions in both years. The reason for the large run-up in equity value relative to GDP is that the average tax rate on dividends fell dramatically between 1962 and 2000. We also find that, given legal constraints that effectively prohibited the holding of stocks as reserves for pension plans, there is no equity premium puzzle in the postwar period. The average returns on debt and equity are as theory predicts.

On the Equilibrium Concept for Overlapping Generations Organizations

A necessary feature for equilibrium is that beliefs about the behavior of other agents are rational. We argue that in stationary OLG environments this implies that any future generation in the same situation as the initial generation must do as well as the initial generation did in that situation. We conclude that the existing equilibrium concepts in the literature do not satisfy this condition. We then propose an alternative equilibrium concept, organizational equilibrium, that satisfies this condition. We show that equilibrium exists, it is unique, and it improves over autarky without achieving optimality. Moreover, the equilibrium can be readily found by solving a maximization program.

The 1990s in Japan: A Lost Decade

Malthus to Solow

A unified growth theory is developed that accounts for the roughly constant living standards displayed by world economies prior to 1800 as well as the growing living standards exhibited by modern industrial economies. Our theory also explains the industrial revolution, which is the transition from an era when per capita incomes are stagnant to one with sustained growth. We use a standard growth model with one good and two available technologies. The first, denoted the Malthus technology, requires land, labor, and reproducible capital as inputs. The second, denoted the Solow technology, does not require land. We show that in the early stages of development, only the Malthus technology is used, and, due to population growth, living standards are stagnant despite technological progress. Eventually, technological progress causes the Solow technology to become profitable, and both technologies are employed. In the limit, the economy behaves like a standard Solow growth model.

Business Cycle Research: Methods and Problems

Needed: A Theory of Total Factor Productivity

This paper evaluates the argument that differences in physical and intangible capital can account for the large international income differences that characterize the world economy today. The finding is that they cannot. Savings rate differences are of minor importance. What is all-important is total factor productivity. In addition, the paper presents industry evidence that total factor productivities differ across countries and time for reasons other than differences in the publicly available stock of technical knowledge. These findings lead me to conclude a theory of TFP is needed. This theory must account for differences in TFP that arise for reasons other than growth in the stock of technical knowledge.

Monopoly Rights: A Barrier to Riches

Our thesis is that poor countries are poor because they employ arrangements for which the equilibrium outcomes are characterized by inferior technologies being used, and being used inefficiently. In this paper, we analyze the consequences of one such arrangement. In each industry, the arrangement enables a coalition of factor suppliers to be the monopoly seller of its input services to all firms using a particular production process. We find that the inefficiencies associated with this monopoly arrangement can be large. Whereas other studies have found that inefficiencies induced by monopoly are at most a few percent of output, we find that eliminating this monopoly arrangement could well increase output by roughly a factor of 3 without any increase in inputs.

Valuation Equilibria With Clubs

This paper considers model worlds in which there is a continuum of individuals who form finite-sized associations to undertake joint activities. We show how, through a suitable choice of commodity space, restrictions on the composition of feasible groups can be incorporated into the specification of the consumption and production sets of the economy. We also show that if there are a finite number of types, then the classical results from the competitive analysis of convex finite-agent economies can be reinterpreted to apply.

The Computational Experiment: An Econometric Tool

An economic experiment consists of the act of placing people in an environment desired by the experimenter, who then records the time paths of their economic behavior. Performing experiments that use actual people at the level of national economies is obviously not practical, but constructing a model economy and computing the economic behavior of the model’s people is. We refer to such experiments as computational experiments because the economic behavior of the model’s people is computed. In this essay, we specify the steps in designing a computational experiment to address some well posed quantitative question. We emphasize that the computational experiment is an econometric tool used in the task of deriving the quantitative implications of theory.

Recursive Methods for Computing Equilibria of Business Cycle Models

Banking in Computable General Equilibrium Economies

In this paper we develop a computable general equilibrium economy that models the banking sector explicitly. Banks intermediate between households and between the household sector and the government sector. Households borrow from banks to finance their purchases of houses and they lend to banks to save for retirement. Banks pool households’ savings and they purchase interest-bearing government debt and non-interest bearing reserves. We use this structure to answer two sets of questions: one normative in nature that evaluates the welfare costs of alternative monetary and tax policies, and one positive in nature that studies the real effects of following a procyclical interest-rate policy rule.

Liquidity Constraints in Economies With Aggregate Fluctuations: A Quantitative Exploration

Technology Adoption and Growth

Technology change is modeled as the result of decisions of individuals and groups of individuals to adopt more advanced technologies. The structure is calibrated to the U.S. and postwar Japan growth experiences. Using this calibrated structure we explore how large the disparity in the effective tax rates on the returns to adopting technologies must be to account for the huge observed disparity in per capita income across countries. We find that this disparity is not implausibly large.

Seigniorage as a Tax: A Quantitative Evaluation

In this paper we analyze the efficacy of seignorage as a tax associated with various monetary arrangements in a computable general equilibrium model. For the economies examined, we find that seignorage tax is not a good one relative to a tax on labor income. If the after-tax real return is –5 percent, as it was in the 1974–1978 period, welfare is approximately 0.5 percent of consumption lower than it would be if the after-tax return were zero.

The Econometrics of the General Equilibrium Approach to Business Cycles

The founding fathers of the Econometric Society defined econometrics to be quantitative economic theory. A vision of theirs was the use of econometrics to provide quantitative answers to business cycle questions. The realization of this dream required a number of advances in pure theory—in particular, the development of modern general equilibrium theory. The econometric problem is how to use these tools along with measurement to answer business cycles questions. In this essay, we review this econometric development and contrast it with the econometric approach that preceded it.

The Firm and the Plant in General Equilibrium Theory

The general equilibrium formulations are developed for two important economic environments. The first environment is the Lucas managerial span-of-control theory of the firm. It is shown that, in the spirit of McKenzie, the aggregate production set can be characterized by a convex cone. The second environment permits both the number of hours plants are operated and the number of workers operating them to be varied. For empirically reasonable elasticities of substitution, equilibrium is characterized by employment-consumption lotteries.

Hours and Employment Variation in Business Cycle Theory

Previous business cycle models have made the assumption that all the variation in the labor input is either due to changes in hours per worker or changes in number of workers, but not both. In this paper, both vary. We think this a better model for estimating the contribution of Solow technology shocks to aggregate fluctuations. We find that about 70 percent of U.S. postwar cyclical fluctuations are induced by variations in the Solow technology parameter.

Time Consistency and Policy

Organizations in Economic Analysis

Three economic environments are reviewed, and in each organizations play an essential role. For an adverse selection insurance economy, we find that when mutual insurance arrangements are permitted an equilibrium necessarily exists and is optimal. This example, and the two others, illustrate the problems that may result from imposing organizational structure on an environment rather than permitting the structure to be determined endogenously.

Dynamic Coalitions, Growth, and the Firm

The implications of a dynamic coalition production technology are explored. With this technology, coalitions produce the current period consumption good as well as coalition-specific capital which is embodied in young coalition members. The equilibrium allocation is efficient and displays constant growth rates, even though exogenous technological change is not a feature of the environment. Unlike the neoclassical growth model, policies which influence agents’ investment-consumption decisions affect not only the level of output, but also its constant growth rate. In addition to these growth entailments, the theory has equally important industrial organization implications. Specifically, in equilibrium there is no tendency for coalition (firm) size to regress to the mean or for the distribution of coalition sizes to become more disparate.

Theory Ahead of Business Cycle Measurement

Recent developments in business cycle theory are reviewed. The principal finding is that the growth model, which was developed to account for the secular patterns in important economic aggregates, displays the business cycle phenomena once it incorporates the observed randomness in the rate of technological advance. The amplitudes and serial correlation properties of fluctuations in output and employment that the growth model predicts match those historically experienced in the United States. Further, the model continues to display the growth facts it was developed to explain.

Financial Intermediary-Coalitions

This paper studies an environment in which the investment opportunities of agents are private information and shows that financial intermediaries arise endogenously within that environment. It establishes that financial intermediaries are part of an efficient arrangement in the sense that they are needed to support the authors’ private information core allocations. These intermediaries, which are coalitions of agents, exhibit the following characteristics in equilibrium: they borrow from and lend to large groups of agents; they produce information about investment projects; and they issue claims that have different state contingent payoffs than claims issued by ultimate borrowers.

“Can the Cycle Be Reconciled With a Consistent Theory of Expectations” Or a Progress Report on Business Cycle Theory

A Test of the Intertemporal Asset Pricing Model

Restrictions that general equilibrium theory place upon average returns are found to be strongly violated by the U.S. data in the 1889–1978 period. This result is robust to model specification and measurement problems. We conclude that equilibrium models which are not Arrow-Debreu economies are needed to rationalize the large average equity premium that prevailed during the last 90 years.

Archive of Working Papers and Conference Proceedings for Edward C. Prescott

Comment on “Do Taxes Explain European Employment?” by Lars Ljungqvist and Thomas J. Sargent

 

Comment on “Inflation, Output, and Welfare” by Ricardo Lagos and Guillaume Rocheteau

Comment on “Measuring Capital and Technology: An Expanded Framework” by Carol Corrado, Charles Hulten and Daniel Sichel

On Defining Real Consumption

Commentary on “Inflation Targeting in a St. Louis Model of the 21st Century” by Robert G. King and Alexander L. Wolman

Comment on “Computable General Equilibrium Models and Monetary Policy Advice” by David E. Altig, Charles T. Carlstrom and Kevin J. Lansing

 

Some Comments on the Use of General Equilibrium Theory in Aggregate Analysis

 

Comment on “The Timing of Raises and Other Payments” by Edward P. Lazear

Comment on “Building Blocks of Market Clearing Business Cycle Models” by Kevin M. Murphy, Andrei Shleifer, Robert W. Vishny

 

Comment on “The New Keynesian Microfoundations” by Julio Rotemberg