Theses Doctoral

Essays on Macroeconomics and Business Cycles

Oh, Hyunseung

This dissertation consists of three essays on macroeconomics and business cycles. In the first chapter, written with Nicolas Crouzet, we ask whether news shocks, which change agents' expectations about future fundamentals, are an important source of business-cycle fluctuations. The existing literature has provided a wide range of answers, finding that news shocks can account for 10 percent to 60 percent of the volatility of output. We show that looking at the dynamics of inventories, so far neglected in this literature, cleanly isolates the role of news shocks in driving business cycles. In particular, inventory dynamics provide an upper bound on the explanatory power of news shocks. We show, for a broad class of theoretical models, that finished-good inventories must fall when there is an increase in consumption and investment induced by news shocks. When good news about future fundamentals lowers expected future marginal costs, firms delay current production and satisfy the increase in demand by selling from existing inventories. This result is robust across the nature of the news and the presence of different types of adjustment costs. We therefore propose a novel empirical identification strategy for news shocks: negative comovement between inventories and components of private spending. Estimating a structural VAR with sign restrictions on inventories, consumption and investment, our identified shock explains at most 20 percent of output variations. Intuitively, since inventories are procyclical in the data, shocks that generate negative comovement between inventories and sales cannot account for the bulk of business-cycle fluctuations.

The second chapter looks into the dynamics of durables over the business cycle. Although transactions of used durables are large and cyclical, their interaction with purchases of new durables has been neglected in the study of business cycles. I fill in this gap by introducing a new model of durables replacement and second-hand markets. The model generates a discretionary replacement demand function, it nests a standard business-cycle model of durables, and it verifies the Coase conjecture. The model delivers three conclusions: markups are smaller for goods that are more durable and more frequently replaced; markups are countercyclical for durables, resolving the comovement puzzle of Barsky, House, and Kimball (2007); and procyclical replacement demand amplifies durable consumption.

In the third chapter, written with Ricardo Reis, we study the macroeconomic implications of government transfers. Between 2007 and 2009, government expenditures increased rapidly across the OECD countries. While economic research on the impact of government purchases has flourished, in the data, about three quarters of the increase in expenditures in the United States (and more in other countries) was in government transfers. We document this fact, and show that the increase in U.S. spending on retirement, disability, and medical care has been as high as the increase in government purchases. We argue that future research should focus on the positive impact of transfers. Towards this, we present a model in which there is no representative agent and Ricardian equivalence does not hold because of uncertainty, imperfect credit markets, and nominal rigidities. Targeted lump-sum transfers are expansionary both because of a neoclassical wealth effect and because of a Keynesian aggregate demand effect.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Reis, Ricardo
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 14, 2014