Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Essays on business cycle fluctuations
by Blanco, Julio Andres, Ph.D., New York University, 2015, 176; 3716488
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is comprised of three essays. In the first essay we develop a price-setting model that explains the gap between the effect of nominal shock in real activity and the frequency of price change through the interplay of menu costs and uncertainty about productivity. Uncertainty arises from firms' inability to distinguish between permanent and transitory changes in their idiosyncratic productivity. Upon the arrival of a productivity shock, a firm's uncertainty spikes up and then fades with learning until the arrival of the next shock. These uncertainty cycles, when paired with menu costs, generate recurrent episodes of high frequency of price adjustment followed by episodes of low frequency of adjustment at the firm level. This time variation in the individual adjustment frequency is consistent with empirical patterns, in particular a decreasing hazard rate of adjustment, and it is key to understand the sluggish propagation of nominal shocks.

The second essays studies a model where the relevant asset that affects a firm's financial conditions is her workers. To achieve this, we extend a standard labor market model as in Pissarides (1985) to incorporate default risk. Because it is costly to engage new workers in production, firms attach a value to be matched with a worker and, consequently, their decision to default and leave the economy is affected by this value. We show that fluctuations in the value of a worker generate and significantly propagate fluctuations in financial markets. We find that, absent any fluctuation in the labor market, credit spreads and default rates would be 68% and 80% less volatile, respectively. Finally, we argue that this two sided interaction between labor and financial markets can be an important propagation mechanism of business cycle fluctuations.

In the third essay I study the optimal inflation target in a menu cost model with an occasionally binding zero lower bound on interest rates. I find that the optimal inflation target is 5%, much larger than the rates currently targeted by the Fed and the ECB, and also larger than in other time- and state-dependent pricing models. In my model resource misallocation does not increase greatly with inflation, unlike in previous sticky price models. The critical additions for this result are firms' idiosyncratic shocks. Higher inflation does indeed increase the gap between old and new prices, but it also increases firms' responsiveness to idiosyncratic shocks. These two effects are balanced using idiosyncratic shocks consistent with micro-price statistics. By increasing the inflation target, policymakers can reduce the probability of hitting the zero lower bound, avoiding costly recessionary episodes.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Midrigan, Virgiliu
Commitee: Gertler, Mark, Lagos, Ricardo, Leahy, John
School: New York University
Department: Economics
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 76/12(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Economics, Labor economics
Keywords: Credit market frictions, Inflation target, Information frictions, Menu cost, Monetary policy, Unemployment
Publication Number: 3716488
ISBN: 978-1-321-95373-2
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