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  • Author: Robert Z. Lawrence
  • Publication Date: 06-2015
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Over the past decade, the US economy has been plagued by sluggish wage growth and rising income inequality. The debate over inequality in the 1980s and 1990s focused on the growing disparity between the earnings of skilled and unskilled workers and the earnings of the super-rich. Growing inequality between capital and labor income has now been added to these concerns. Remarkably, the growth in real GDP per worker over the decade of the 2000s, which averaged 1.7 percent annually, was actually more rapid than in the 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s, yet in the 2000s workers saw almost no increase in their take-home pay. Consistent with this gap between labor productivity and wage growth was a pronounced decline in the share of US national income earned by workers. As labor's share has declined, the share of capital has risen and has been especially concentrated in corporate profits. As profits are far less equally distributed than wages, this increase has contributed to rising income inequality. There are several plausible reasons for this development—globalization, automation, weak bargaining power of labor, political capture, higher markups—but the natural starting point for explaining factor income shares is the neoclassical theory of the functional distribution of income enumerated by John Hicks and Joan Robinson in the 1930s. In this framework there are two possible explanations for labor's recent declining share. The first is that capital and labor are gross substitutes, and the second is that capital and labor are gross complements. Several papers have explained the recent decline in labor's share in income by claiming that capital has been substituted for labor. Lawrence puts forward the alternative "gross complements" explanation for the declining US labor share. He shows that despite a rise in measured capital-labor ratios, labor-augmenting technical change in the United States has been sufficiently rapid that effective capital-labor ratios have actually fallen in the sectors and industries that account for the largest portion of the declining labor share in income since 1980. In combination with estimates that corroborate the consensus in the literature that the elasticity of substitution is less than 1, these declines in the effective capital-labor ratio can account for much of the recent fall in labor's share in US income at both the aggregate and industry level. Paradoxically, these results also suggest that increased capital formation, ideally achieved through a progressive consumption tax, would raise labor's share in income.
  • Topic: Economics, Globalization, Markets, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Edwin M. Truman
  • Publication Date: 08-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper traces the evolution of the Federal Reserve and its engagement with the global economy over the last three decades of the 20th century: 1970 to 2000. The paper examines the Federal Reserve's role in international economic and financial policy and analysis covering four areas: the emergence and taming of the great inflation, developments in US external accounts, foreign exchange analysis and activities, and external financial crises. It concludes that during this period the US central bank emerged to become the closest the world has to a global central bank.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: William R. Cline, Jared Nolan
  • Publication Date: 07-2014
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper applies time series analysis to distinguish between cyclical and demographic causes of the decline of the labor force participation rate. Some public discussions suggest that the decline of US unemployment from its 2009 peak of 10 percent to about 6 percent by mid-2014 grossly exaggerates recovery because most of the decline reflects the exit of discouraged workers from the labor force. This study finds instead that one-half to two-thirds of the decline in labor force participation by about 3 percentage points from late 2007 to early 2014 is attributable to aging of the population. Although about one-third is found attributable to the lagged influence of high, and especially long-term, unemployment, going forward the potential rebound in the participation rate from recovery is projected to be approximately offset by further aging of the population.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Labor Issues, Population
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: David G. Blanchflower, David N. F. Bell
  • Publication Date: 08-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: One of the factors that may inhibit reductions in unemployment as the economy recovers is the extent to which existing workers would like to work more hours and employers may prefer to let them work longer hours before making new hires. This phenomenon suggests that the unemployment rate does not capture the full extent of excess capacity in the labor market. But how should it be measured? In this paper we argue that the United States does not have the necessary statistical tools to calibrate this form of underemployment. We describe an index that captures the joint effects of unemployment and underemployment and provides a more complete picture of labor market excess capacity. We show how this index can be implemented using British data and describe its evolution over the Great Recession. Comparisons of our index with unemployment rates suggest that unemployment rates understate differences in labor market excess capacity by age group and overstate differences by gender. We also show that being unable to work the hours that one desires has a negative effect on well-being. Finally, we recommend that the Current Population Survey conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics might be extended to enable the construction of an equivalent US index.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States, Europe
  • Author: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: In this paper Kirkegaard presents new micro-level data consisting of individual greenfield investment projects and mergers and acquisitions as a source for detailed analysis of services sector cross-border investment flows among the Asian Development Bank (ADB) regional membership in Asia. The new transactional foreign direct investment (FDI) data are methodologically distinct from traditional BPM5-compliant FDI data but found to yield generally comparable aggregates, when compared with the latest available International Monetary Fund (IMF) data from the Comprehensive Direct Investment Survey for the ADB regional membership. The services sectors are found to receive considerably larger amounts of foreign investment, when compared with the Asian region's manufacturing and raw materials sectors. OECD countries account for roughly three-quarters of total recorded inward services sector FDI of about $2 trillion, relatively evenly split between the United States, the EU-27, and regional OECD-level-income countries. The presence of sizable regional "upward flowing" services sector investments into OECD-level-income economies is verified. Kirkegaard draws preliminary policy conclusions based on the new transactional FDI data results concerning prospects for regional services sector liberalization, threshold income levels for inward services sector FDI, upward-flowing regional services FDI, and preferred modes of services sector investments.
  • Topic: Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: United States, Israel, Asia
  • Author: Olivier Jeanne
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Has the US dollar delivered the benefit that the rest of the world is expecting from its holdings of international liquidity? US government debt has been liquid and safe, and it is supplied in sufficient quantity. But it has given a low return to the countries that accumulated the most reserves, especially when those returns are measured in terms of the countries' own consumption. Jeanne argues that countries that accumulate the most reserves should expect a low return in terms of their own consumption and that international monetary reform can do little to change that fact.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Daniel Danxia Xie
  • Publication Date: 02-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper provides new evidence on the long-run relationship between economic growth and labor's share in national income, based on a comprehensive panel data set for 123 countries from 1950 to 2004. Xie's primary finding is that labor's share follows a cubic relationship with real GDP per capita over the long process of development. At the beginning of the modern economic growth process, the share of labor in national income first decreases until an initial threshold is reached. After that, labor's share keeps increasing until the country's GDP per capita reaches a second threshold before falling again. Xie argues that these dynamics apply not only to the less developed countries in the postwar years, but also to the advanced countries like the United States and the United Kingdom during their early economic take-offs, starting in the late 18th and 19th century, respectively. Finally, he proposes a two-sector constant elasticity of substitution (CES)-type growth model and simulate the model to replicate and explain the possible mechanism behind such a nonlinear pattern of movements in labor's share.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Labor Issues, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom
  • Author: Morris Goldstein, Nicolas Véron
  • Publication Date: 01-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Although the United States and the European Union were both seriously impacted by the financial crisis of 2007, resulting policy debates and regulatory responses have differed considerably on the two sides of the Atlantic. In this paper the authors examine the debates on the problem posed by "too big to fail" financial institutions. They identify variations in historical experiences, financial system structures, and political institutions that help one understand the differences of approaches between the United States, EU member states, and the EU institutions in addressing this problem. The authors then turn to possible remedies and how they may be differentially implemented in America and Europe. They conclude on which policy developments are likely in the near future.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Europe
  • Author: Theodore H. Moran
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: What is the relationship between foreign manufacturing multinational corporations (MNCs) and the expansion of indigenous technological and managerial technological capabilities among Chinese firms? China has been remarkably successful in designing industrial policies, joint venture requirements, and technology transfer pressures to use FDI to create indigenous national champions in a handful of prominent sectors: high speed rail transport, information technology, auto assembly, and an emerging civil aviation sector. But what is striking in the aggregate data is how relatively thin the layer of horizontal and vertical spillovers from foreign manufacturing multinationals to indigenous Chinese firms has proven to be. Despite the large size of manufacturing FDI inflows, the impact of multinational corporate investment in China has been largely confined to building plants that incorporate capital, technology, and managerial expertise controlled by the foreigner. As the skill-intensity of exports increases, the percentage of the value of the final product that derives from imported components rises sharply. China has remained a low value-added assembler of more sophisticated inputs imported from abroad—a “workbench” economy. Where do the gains from FDI in China end up? While manufacturing MNCs may build plants in China, the largest impact from deployment of worldwide earnings is to bolster production, employment, R, and local purchases in their home markets. For the United States the most recent data show that US-headquartered MNCs have 70 percent of their operations, make 89 percent of their purchases, spend 87 percent of their R dollars, and locate more than half of their workforce within the US economy—this is where most of the earnings from FDI in China are delivered.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance, Science and Technology
  • Political Geography: United States, China, Israel
  • Author: Carmen M. Reinhart
  • Publication Date: 04-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Historically, periods of high indebtedness have been associated with a rising incidence of default or restructuring of public and private debts. A subtle type of debt restructuring takes the form of "financial repression." Financial repression includes directed lending to government by captive domestic audiences (such as pension funds), explicit or implicit caps on interest rates, regulation of cross-border capital movements, and (generally) a tighter connection between government and banks. In this paper, the authors describe some of the regulatory measures and policy actions that characterized the heyday of the financial repression era. In the heavily regulated financial markets of the Bretton Woods system, several restrictions facilitated a sharp and rapid reduction in public debt/GDP ratios from the late 1940s to the 1970s. Low nominal interest rates help reduce debt servicing costs while a high incidence of negative real interest rates liquidates or erodes the real value of government debt. Thus, financial repression is most successful in liquidating debts when accompanied by a steady dose of inflation. Inflation need not take market participants entirely by surprise and, in effect, it need not be very high (by historical standards). For the advanced economies in Reinhart and Sbrancia's sample, real interest rates were negative roughly half of the time during 1945–80. For the United States and the United Kingdom, their estimates of the annual liquidation of debt via negative real interest rates amounted on average to 3 to 4 percent of GDP a year. For Australia and Italy, which recorded higher inflation rates, the liquidation effect was larger (around 5 percent per annum).
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom
  • Author: Arvind Subramanian
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Against the backdrop of the recent financial crisis and the ongoing rapid changes in the world economy, the fate of the dollar as the premier international reserve currency is under scrutiny. This paper attempts to answer whether the Chinese renminbi will eclipse the dollar, what will be the timing of, and the prerequisites for this transition, and which of the two countries controls the outcome. The key finding, based on analyzing the last 110 years, is that the size of an economy—measured not just in terms of GDP but also trade and the strength of the external financial position—is the key fundamental correlate of reserve currency status. Further, the conventional view that sterling persisted well beyond the strength of the UK economy is overstated. Although the United States overtook the United Kingdom in terms of GDP in the 1870s, it became dominant in a broader sense encompassing trade and finance only at the end of World War I. And since the dollar overtook sterling in the mid-1920s, the lag between currency dominance and economic dominance was about 10 years rather than the 60-plus years traditionally believed. Applying these findings to the current context suggests that the renminbi could become the premier reserve currency by the end of this decade, or early next decade. But China needs to fulfill a number of conditions—making the reniminbi convertible and opening up its financial system to create deep and liquid markets—to realize renminbi preeminence. China seems to be moving steadily in that direction, and renminbi convertibility will proceed apace not least because it offers China's policymakers a political exit out of its mercantilist growth strategy. The United States cannot in any serious way prevent China from moving in that direction.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Trevor Houser, Jason Selfe
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: At the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010, the United States joined other developed countries in pledging to mobilize $100 billion in public and private sector funding to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a warmer world. With a challenging US fiscal outlook and the failure of cap-and-trade legislation in the US Congress, America's ability to meet this pledge is increasingly in doubt. This paper identifies, quantifies, and assesses the politics of a range of potential US sources of climate finance. It finds that raising new public funds for climate finance will be extremely challenging in the current fiscal environment and that many of the politically attractive alternatives are not realistically available absent a domestic cap-and-trade program or other regime for pricing carbon. Washington's best hope is to use limited public funds to leverage private sector investment through bilateral credit agencies and multilateral development banks.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Development, Economics, Energy Policy, Politics, Foreign Direct Investment
  • Political Geography: United States, America, Washington, United Nations
  • Author: J. Bradford Jensen, Andrew B. Bernard, Peter K. Schott, Stephen J. Redding
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: International trade models typically assume that producers in one country trade directly with final consumers in another. In reality, of course, trade can involve long chains of potentially independent actors who move goods through wholesale and retail distribution networks. These networks likely affect the magnitude and nature of trade frictions and hence both the pattern of trade and its welfare gains. To promote further understanding of the means by which goods move across borders, this paper examines the extent to which US exports and imports flow through wholesalers and retailers versus producing and consuming firms.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Robert Z. Lawrence, Lawrence Edwards
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Conventional trade theory, which combines the Heckscher-Ohlin theory and the Stolper-Samuelson theorem, implies that expanded trade between developed and developing countries will increase wage equality in the former. This theory is widely applied. It serves as the basis for estimating the impact of trade on wages using two-sector simulation models and the net factor content of trade. It leads naturally to the presumption that the rapid growth and declining relative prices of US manufactured imports from developing countries since the 1990s have been a powerful source of increased US wage inequality.
  • Topic: Economics, Political Theory, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Adam S. Posen
  • Publication Date: 06-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Japan's Great Recession was the result of a series of macroeconomic and financial policy mistakes. Thus, it was largely avoidable once the initial shock from the bubble bursting had passed. The aberration in Japan's recession was not the behaviour of growth, which is best seen as a series of recoveries aborted by policy errors. Rather, the surprise was the persistent steadiness of limited deflation, even after recovery took place. This is a more fundamental challenge to our basic macroeconomic understanding than is commonly recognized. The UK and US economies are at low risk of having recurrent recessions through macroeconomic policy mistakes—but deflation itself cannot be ruled out. The United Kingdom worryingly combines a couple of financial parallels to Japan with far less room for fiscal action to compensate for them than Japan had. Also, Japan did not face poor prospects for external demand and the need to reallocate productive resources across export sectors during its Great Recession. Many economies do now face this challenge simultaneously, which may limit the pace of, and their share in, the global recovery.
  • Topic: Economics, Markets, Monetary Policy, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, Japan, United Kingdom
  • Author: J. Bradford Jensen, Andrew B. Bernard, Peter K. Schott, Stephen J. Redding
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Recent research in international trade emphasizes the importance of firms' extensive margins for understanding overall patterns of trade as well as how firms respond to specific events such as trade liberalization. In this paper, we use detailed US trade statistics to provide a broad overview of how the margins of trade contribute to variation in US imports and exports across trading partners, types of trade (i.e., arm's length versus related party) and both short and long time horizons. Among other results, we highlight the differential behavior of related-party and arm's-length trade in response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: J. Bradford Jensen, Andrew B. Bernard, Peter K. Schott, Stephen J. Redding
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This paper examines the determinants of intra-firm trade in US imports using detailed country-product data. We create a new measure of product contractibility based on the degree of intermediation in international trade for the product. We find important roles for the interaction of country and product characteristics in determining intra-firm trade shares. Intra-firm trade is high for products with low levels of contractibility sourced from countries with weak governance, for skill-intensive products from skill-scarce countries, and for capital-intensive products from capital-abundant countries.
  • Topic: Economics, Industrial Policy, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Olivier Jeanne, Anton Korinek
  • Publication Date: 09-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: We study a dynamic model in which the interaction between debt accumulation and asset prices magnifies credit booms and busts. We find that borrowers do not internalize these feedback effects and therefore suffer from excessively large booms and busts in both credit flows and asset prices. We show that a Pigouvian tax on borrowing may induce borrowers to internalize these externalities and increase welfare. We calibrate the model with reference to (1) the US small and medium-sized enterprise sector and (2) the household sector and find the optimal tax to be countercy - clical in both cases, dropping to zero in busts and rising to approximately half a percentage point of the amount of debt outstanding during booms.
  • Topic: Debt, Economics, Global Recession, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Gary Clyde Hufbauer, Jared C. Woollacott
  • Publication Date: 12-2010
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: This study covers the history of Sino-US trade relations with a particular focus on the past decade, during which time each has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Providing a brief history of 19th and 20th century economic relations, this paper examines in detail the trade disputes that have arisen between China and the United States over the past decade, giving dollar estimates for the trade flows at issue. Each country has partaken in their share of protectionist measures, however, US measures have been characteristically defensive, protecting declining industries, while Chinese measures have been characteristically offensive, promoting nascent industries. We also cover administrative and legislation actions within each country that have yet to be the subject of formal complaint at the WTO. This includes an original and comprehensive quantitative summary of US Section 337 intellectual property rights cases. While we view the frictions in Sino-US trade a logical consequence of the rapid increase in flows between the two countries, we caution that each country work within the WTO framework and respect any adverse decisions it delivers so that a protracted protectionist conflict does not emerge. We see the current currency battle as one potential catalyst for such conflict if US and Chinese policymakers fail to manage it judiciously.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Mohsin S. Khan
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The creation of a monetary union has been the primary objective of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members since the early 1980s. Significant progress has already been made in regional economic integration: The GCC countries have largely unrestricted intraregional mobility of goods, labor, and capital; regulation of the banking sector is being harmonized; and in 2008 the countries established a common market. Further, most of the convergence criteria established for entry into a monetary union have already been achieved. In establishing a monetary union, however, the GCC countries must decide on the exchange rate regime for the single currency. The countries' use of a US dollar peg as an external anchor for monetary policy has so far served them well, but rising inflation and differing economic cycles from the United States in recent years have raised the question of whether the dollar peg remains the best policy.
  • Topic: Economics, Foreign Exchange, Regional Cooperation
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard
  • Publication Date: 08-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: Th is paper expands on the methodology of Groshen and Potter (2003) for studying cyclical and structural changes in the US economy and analyzes the net structural and cyclical employment trends in the US economy during the last 10 trough-to-trough business cycles from 1949 to the present. It illustrates that the US manufacturing sector and an increasing number of services sectors, including parts of the fi nancial services sector, are experiencing structural employment declines. Structural employment gains in the US labor market are increasingly concentrated in the healthcare, education, food, and professional and technical services sectors and in the occupations related to these industries. Th e paper concludes that the improved operation of the US labor market during the 1990s has reversed itself in the 2000s, with negative long-term economic eff ects for the United States.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: United States
  • Author: Theodore H. Moran
  • Publication Date: 07-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Peterson Institute for International Economics
  • Abstract: The 2008 election rekindled debate about whether US multinationals shift technology across borders and relocate production in ways that might harm workers and communities at home. President Obama now pledges to end tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas. The preoccupation about the behavior of American multinationals takes three forms: (1) that US-based multinational corporations may follow a strategy that leads them to abandon the home economy, leaving the workers and communities to cope on their own with few appealing alternatives after the multinationals have left; (2) worse, that US-based multinational corporations may not just abandon home sites but drain off capital, substitute production abroad for exports, and “hollow out” the domestic economy in a zero-sum process that damages those left behind; and (3) worst, that US-based multinational corporations may deploy a rent-gathering apparatus that switches from sharing supranormal profits and externalities with US workers and communities to extracting rents from the United States. Each of these concerns contains a hypothetical outcome that can be compared with contemporary evidence from the United States and other home countries.
  • Topic: Economics, International Political Economy, International Trade and Finance, Markets, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: United States, America