Three essays in macroeconomics

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Title: Three essays in macroeconomics
Author: Talbert, Matthew Alan
Abstract: Chapters one and two of the dissertation investigate the effects of political disagreement on macroeconomic outcomes. I introduce a model of governments with heterogeneous preferences over the composition of consumption between private and public goods alternating in power. Unable to commit to future policies, the party in power has incentive not only to shape consumption according to their preferences but also to manipulate the future state faced by successive governments to influence the decisions of future policy makers. Alternating governments give rise to political business cycles; fluctuations in economy-wide variables due to the political system. Political business cycles help explain the divergence in outcomes of economic variables across countries with different levels of political disagreement and political stability. The first chapter adapts a real business cycle model to include political shocks in addition to the productivity shocks. This is motivated by a key puzzle in the business cycle literature: for emerging economies the volatility of consumption is higher than the volatility of output, a feature of the data that is not explained by standard theory. The goal of this chapter is not only to replicate the data but to understand how consumption responds to political shocks differently than shocks to productivity. This model is also able to recreate endogenously the high level of volatility in government expenditure observed in the data. The model can explain up to 29% of the variation in the relative volatility of consumption across countries. Chapter two focuses on a similar model in the presence of debt instead of capital to develop a positive theory for fiscal policy (debt, expenditure, and deficits) over the business cycle to compare to historical observation. I find that political shocks are important to understand observed U.S. data moments. Chapter three investigates the welfare effects of tax-deferred retirement accounts (similar to Traditional IRAs in the US). I find that such accounts increase aggregate welfare as well as increasing economy-wide inequality. I find from an aggregate welfare perspective the optimal contribution limit for IRAs is to not have a contribution limit.
Department: Economics
Subject: Political economy Political shocks Business cycle Macroeconomics
Date: 2011-05

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