Essays on topics in business cycle macroeconomics with heterogeneous agents
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This dissertation investigates several business cycle relationships when economic agents are heterogeneous. The particular focus is on the interactions between the cross-section of agents and the aggregate state of the economy. The first chapter shows that, when occasionally binding capacity constraints limit the production of heterogeneous firms, demand shocks can endogenously generate a number of important business cycle regularities: recessions are deeper than booms are high, firm-level volatility is countercyclical, the aggregate Solow residual is procyclical and the fiscal multiplier is countercyclical. A baseline calibration of a basic New Keynesian DSGE model with capacity constraints shows that this mechanism can explain more than a quarter of the empirically observed asymmetry in output, and matches the cyclicality of firm-level profitability dispersion and of the measured Solow residual. The model implies fluctuations in the fiscal multiplier of around 0.12 between expansions and recessions. Chapter two takes a different approach to firm level uncertainty, exploring how recessions can cause an endogenous rise in firm risk. If heterogeneous firms face real and financial frictions, then a shock to the mean of aggregate productivity endogenously leads to countercyclical profitability risk through firms' heterogeneous responses in price setting. Additionally, the mechanism endogenously generates countercyclical credit spreads and credit spread dispersion. The model explains a large share of the observed fluctuations in profitability dispersion (69%) and in credit spreads (40%) through fluctuations in aggregate TFP holding productivity risk constant. This suggests that the scope for uncertainty shocks to explain recessions may be smaller than previously thought. The third chapter focuses on distributional effects of oil price shocks on the household side. In the model, household behavior replicates two patterns found in household-level data which show that gas consumption increases with income, but on the intensive margin gasoline consumption as a share of the household's budget decreases with income. The model includes gas consumption in household utility on top of a fixed minimum level of gas consumption. Calibrated simulations suggest that a shock to the gas price is almost twice as costly for relatively poor households than for relatively rich households.