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Author:Melcangi, Davide 

Discussion Paper
Did State Reopenings Increase Consumer Spending?

The spread of COVID-19 in the United States has had a profound impact on economic activity. Beginning in March, most states imposed severe restrictions on households and businesses to slow the spread of the virus. This was followed by a gradual loosening of restrictions (“reopening”) starting in April. As the virus has re-emerged, a number of states have taken steps to reverse the reopening of their economies. For example, Texas and Florida closed bars again in June, and Arizona additionally paused operations of gyms and movie theatres. Taken together, these measures raise the question of ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20200918b

Report
Approximating Grouped Fixed Effects Estimation via Fuzzy Clustering Regression

We propose a new, computationally-efficient way to approximate the “grouped fixed-effects” (GFE) estimator of Bonhomme and Manresa (2015), which estimates grouped patterns of unobserved heterogeneity. To do so, we generalize the fuzzy C-means objective to regression settings. As the regularization parameter m approaches 1, the fuzzy clustering objective converges to the GFE objective; moreover, we recast this objective as a standard Generalized Method of Moments problem. We replicate the empirical results of Bonhomme and Manresa (2015) and show that our estimator delivers almost identical ...
Staff Reports , Paper 1033

Discussion Paper
Not Just “Stimulus” Checks: The Marginal Propensity to Repay Debt

Households frequently use stimulus checks to pay down existing debt. In this post, we discuss the empirical evidence on this marginal propensity to repay debt (MPRD), and we present new findings using the Survey of Consumer Expectations. We find that households with low net wealth-to-income ratios were more prone to use transfers from the CARES Act of March 2020 to pay down debt. We then show that standard models of consumption-saving behavior can be made consistent with these empirical findings if borrowers’ interest rates rise with debt. Our model suggests that fiscal policy may face a ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20230627

Discussion Paper
An Update on the Health of the U.S. Consumer

The strength of consumer spending so far this year has surprised most private forecasters. In this post, we examine the factors behind this strength and the implications for consumption in the coming quarters. First, we revisit the measurement of “excess savings” that households have accumulated since 2020, finding that the estimates of remaining excess savings are very sensitive to assumptions about measurement, estimation period, and trend type, which renders them less useful. We thus broaden the discussion to other aspects of the household balance sheet. Using data from the New York ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20231018a

Discussion Paper
How Large Are Inflation Revisions? The Difficulty of Monitoring Prices in Real Time

With prices quickly going up after the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation releases have rarely been as present in the public debate as in recent years. However, since inflation estimates are frequently revised, how precise are the real-time data releases? In this Liberty Street Economics post, we investigate the size and nature of revisions to inflation. We find that inflation estimates for a given month can change substantially as subsequent data vintages are released. As an example, consider March 2009. With the economy contracting amid the Global Financial Crisis, the twelve-month inflation rate ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20230907

Report
Subsidizing Startups under Imperfect Information

We study the early stages of firm creation under imperfect information. Because startups make error-prone decisions due to rational inattention, the model generates both inefficient entry and labor misallocation. We show that information frictions alter the effects of lump-sum transfers to startups: the total employment gain is amplified due to an unintended increase in inefficient entry, most entrants hire fewer workers, and misallocation goes up. The transfer makes low-size, previously dominated actions profitable, affecting the entire endogenous learning problem and making even productive ...
Staff Reports , Paper 995

Report
A Measure of Core Wage Inflation

We recover the persistent (“core”) component of nominal wage growth over the past twenty-five years in the United States. Our approach combines worker-level data with time-series smoothing methods and can disentangle the common persistence of wage inflation from the persistence specific to some subgroup of workers, such as workers in a specific industry. We find that most of the business cycle fluctuations in wage inflation are persistent and driven by a common factor. This common persistent factor is particularly important during inflationary periods, and it explains 80 to 90 percent of ...
Staff Reports , Paper 1067

Discussion Paper
COVID-19 and Small Businesses: Uneven Patterns by Race and Income

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in one of the sharpest recessions and recoveries in U.S. history. As the virus spread over the country in a matter of weeks in March 2020, most states rapidly locked down nonessential economic activity, which plummeted as a result. As the first wave of COVID-19 subsided and people gradually learned to “live with the virus,” states reversed most of the initial lockdowns and economic activity rebounded. In our ongoing Economic Inequality series, we have explored many aspects of how the economic turmoil associated with COVID-19 differentially affected ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20210527a

Discussion Paper
Who’s Ready to Spend? Constrained Consumption across the Income Distribution

Spending on goods and services that were constrained during the pandemic is expected to grow at a fast pace as the economy reopens. In this post, we look at detailed spending data to track which consumption categories were the most constrained by the pandemic due to social distancing. We find that, in 2019, high-income households typically spent relatively more on these pandemic-constrained goods and services. Our findings suggest that these consumers may have strongly reduced consumption during the pandemic and will likely play a crucial role in unleashing pent-up demand when pandemic ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20210513b

Discussion Paper
What Have Workers Done with the Time Freed up by Commuting Less?

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way Americans spend their time. One of the most enduring shifts has occurred in the workplace, with millions of employees making the switch to work from home. Even as the pandemic has waned, more than 15 percent of full-time employees remain fully remote and an additional 30 percent work in hybrid arrangements (Barrero, Bloom, and Davis). These changes have substantially reduced time spent commuting to work; in the aggregate, Americans now spend 60 million fewer hours traveling to work each day. In this post, we investigate how people spend ...
Liberty Street Economics , Paper 20221018

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