Essay on Inequality, Business Cycles, and Macroeconomic Policy
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This dissertation investigates inequality, business cycles, and macroeconomic policies. First, I investigate the quantitative implications of real wage rigidities and heterogeneity for two long-lasting puzzles in the business cycles literature: the low correlation between total hours worked and labor productivity and the large volatility of the labor wedge, defined as a gap between the marginal rate of substitution of aggregate leisure for aggregate consumption and the marginal product of aggregate labor. I shed light on these issues by extending a heterogeneous-agent model with an indivisible labor supply choice to real wage rigidities. I find that a small amount of real wage stickiness would be sufficient to resolve both anomalies when long-term wage contracts and heterogeneity are taken into account. Second, I study the heterogeneous responses of consumption between the poor and the rich to government spending shocks. Government spending shocks have substantially different effects on consumers across the income distribution: consumption increases for the poor whereas it decreases for the rich in response to a rise in government expenditure. I shed light on this issue by incorporating a progressive tax scheme and productive public expenditure into a heterogeneous agent model economy with indivisible labor. The model economy is able to successfully match aggregate and disaggregate effects of government spending shocks on consumption. When the government increases its spending and accompanies it by a rise in tax progressivity, the poor are employed and increase their consumption since after-tax wage rates increase while the rich decrease their consumption because of a fall in after-tax wage rates. Third, I also investigate the relation between monetary policy and inequality by asking how one affects the other: the effect of monetary policy on inequality and the impact of the long-run level of inequality on the effectiveness of monetary policy. To this end, I incorporate nominal wage contracts and cash-in-advance constraints into a heterogeneous agent model economy with indivisible labor. I find that expansionary monetary policy reduces income, wealth, and consumption inequalities mainly due to a rise in employment from the bottom of the distributions. There are heterogeneous effects on income across the wealth distribution: in response to an unanticipated monetary easing, households in the bottom of the wealth distribution benefit from an increase in employment while rich households benefit from a rise in the real asset returns in a relative sense. An unexpected monetary expansion also has asymmetric responses of consumption between the poor and the rich: asset-poor households increase their consumption while it falls for wealthy households. This implies that inflation hurts the rich more. I also find that the long-run prevailing levels of inequality matter for the effectiveness of monetary policy by determining the size of labor supply elasticity, which represents the shape of reservation wage distribution. All else being equal, a more equal economy is associated with more effective monetary policy in terms of output. I also provide empirical evidence for this model result using state-level panel data: the effects of monetary policy shocks on output are larger for low-inequality states.
SubjectReal wage rigidity
Productive government spending
Nominal wage rigidity
Ma, Eunseong (2019). Essay on Inequality, Business Cycles, and Macroeconomic Policy. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from