Research

2017
Aguiar, Mark, et al.Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises, Revisited: The Art of the Desperate Deal”. 2017: n. pag. Print.Abstract

We revisit self-fulfilling rollover crises by introducing an alternative equilibrium selection that involves bond auctions at depressed but strictly positive equilibrium prices, a scenario in line with observed sovereign debt crises.  We refer to these auctions as ``desperate deals,'' the defining feature of which is a price schedule that makes the government indifferent to default or repayment.  The government randomizes at the time of repayment, which we show can be implemented in pure strategies by introducing stochastic political payoffs or external bailouts.  Quantitatively, auctions at fire-sale prices are crucial for generating realistic spread volatility. 

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2016
Aguiar, Mark, and Manuel Amador. “Fiscal Policy in Debt Constrained Economies”. Journal of Economic Theory 161 (2016): , 161, 37-75. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We study optimal fiscal policy in a small open economy (SOE) with sovereign and private default risk and limited commitment to tax plans. The SOE's government uses linear taxation to fund exogenous expenditures and uses public debt to inter-temporally allocate tax distortions. We characterize a class of environments in which the tax on labor goes to zero in the long run, while the tax on capital income may be non-zero, reversing the standard prediction of the Ramsey tax literature.  The zero labor tax is an optimal long run outcome if the economy is subject to sovereign debt constraints and the domestic households are impatient relative to the international interest rate.  The front loading of tax distortions allows the economy to build a large (aggregate) debt position in the presence of limited commitment. We show that a similar result holds in a closed economy with imperfect inter-generational altruism, providing a link with the closed-economy literature that has explored disagreement between the government and its citizens regarding inter-temporal tradeoffs.

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Aguiar, Mark, and Erik Hurst. “The Macroeconomics of Time Allocation”. Handbook of Macroeconomics. Elsevier, 2016. Print.Abstract

In this chapter we explore the macroeconomics of time allocation.  We begin with an overview of the trends in market hours in the US, both in the aggregate and for key sub-samples.  After introducing a Beckerian theoretical framework, the chapter then discusses key empirical patterns of time allocation, both in the time series (including business cycle properties) and over the lifecycle.  We focus on several core non-market activities, including home production, childcare, and leisure.  The chapter concludes with a discussion of why these patterns are important to macroeconomics and spells out directions for future research.  

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Aguiar, Mark, et al.Take the Short Route: Equilibrium Default and Debt Maturity”. 2016: n. pag. Print.Abstract
We study the interactions between sovereign debt default and maturity choice in a setting with limited commitment for repayment as well as future debt issuances. Our main finding is that under a wide range of conditions the sovereign should, as long as default is not preferable, remain passive in long-term bond markets, making payments and retiring long-term bonds as they mature but never actively issuing or buying back such bonds. The only active debt-management margin is the short-term bond market. We show that any attempt to manipulate the existing maturity profile of outstanding long-term bonds generates losses, as bond prices move against the sovereign. Our results hold regardless of the shape of the yield curve. The yield curve captures the average costs of financing at different maturities but is misleading regarding the marginal costs.
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Aguiar, Mark, et al.Quantitative Models of Sovereign Debt Crises”. Handbook of Macroeconomics. Elsevier, 2016. Print.Abstract

This chapter is on quantitative models of sovereign debt crises in emerging economies.  We interpret debt crises broadly to cover all of the major problems a country can experience while trying to issue new debt, including default, sharp increases in the spread and failed auctions.  We examine the spreads on sovereign debt of 20 emerging market economies since 1993 and document the extent to which fluctuations in spreads are driven by country-specific fundamentals, common latent factors and observed global factors. Our findings motivate quantitative models of debt and default with the following features: (i) trend stationary or stochastic growth, (ii) risk averse competitive lenders, (iii) a strategic repayment/borrowing decision, (iv) multi-period debt,  (v) a default penalty that includes both a reputation loss and a physical output loss and (vi) rollover defaults.   For the quantitative evaluation of the model, we focus on Mexico and carefully discuss the successes and weaknesses of various versions of the model.  We close with some thoughts on useful directions for future research.

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2015
Aguiar, Mark, et al.Coordination and Crisis in Monetary Unions”. Quarterly Journal of Economics 130 (2015): , 130, 1727-1779. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We characterize fiscal and monetary policy in a monetary union with the potential for rollover crises in sovereign debt markets. Member-country fiscal authorities lack commitment to repay their debt and choose fiscal policy independently. A common monetary authority chooses inflation for the union, also without commitment. We first describe the existence of a fiscal externality that arises in the presence of limited commitment and leads countries to over borrow; this externality rationalizes the imposition of debt ceilings in a monetary union. We then investigate the impact of the composition of debt in a monetary union, that is the fraction of high-debt versus low-debt members, on the occurrence of self-fulfilling debt crises. We demonstrate that a high-debt country may be less vulnerable to crises and have higher welfare when it belongs to a union with an intermediate mix of high- and low-debt members, than one where all other members are low-debt. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom that all countries should prefer a union with low-debt members, as such a union can credibly deliver low inflation. These findings shed new light on the criteria for an optimal currency area in the presence of rollover crises.

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Aguiar, Mark, and Mark Bils. “Has Consumption Inequality Mirrored Income Inequality”. American Economic Review 105 (2015): , 105, 2725-2756. Web. DataAbstract

We revisit to what extent the increase in income inequality over the last 30 years has been mirrored by consumption inequality. We do so by constructing an alternative measure of consumption expenditure, using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE), that employs a demand system to correct for systematic measurement error. Specifically, we consider trends in the relative expenditure of high-income and low-income households for different goods with different expenditure elasticities. Our estimation exploits the difference in the growth rate of luxury consumption inequality versus necessity consumption inequality. This ``double-differencing,'' which we implement in a regression framework, corrects for mis-measurement that can systematically vary over time by good and income group. Our results show that consumption inequality has tracked income inequality much more closely than estimated by direct responses on expenditures.

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2014
Aguiar, Mark, and Manuel Amador. “Sovereign Debt”. Handbook of International Economics Vol 4. Elsevier, 2014. Print.Abstract

In this chapter, we use a benchmark limited-commitment model to explore key issues in the economics of sovereign debt. After highlighting conceptual issues that distinguish sovereign debt as well as reviewing a number of empirical facts, we use the model to discuss debt overhang, risk sharing, and capital flows in an environment of limited enforcement. We also discuss recent progress on default and renegotiation; self-fulfilling debt crises; and incomplete markets and their quantitative implications. We conclude with a brief assessment of the current state of the literature and highlight some directions for future research.

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Aguiar, Mark, and Manuel Amador. “Take the Short Route: How to repay and restructure sovereign debt with multiple maturities”. 2014: n. pag. Print.Abstract

We address the question of whether and how a sovereign should reduce its external indebtedness when default is a significant possibility, with a particular focus on whether a sovereign should buy back or dilute existing long-term sovereign bonds. Our main finding is that when reduction of debt is optimal, the sovereign should remain passive in the long-term bond market during the deleveraging process, retiring long-term bonds as they mature but never actively issuing or buying back these bonds. The only active margin is the short-term bond market, which involves partial roll over of such debt. Any active maturity management, as will typically be required to address rollover crisis risk, will be delayed until the end of the deleveraging process. We also show that there exist a set of Pareto improving debt restructurings in which maturities are shortened; however, these cannot be implemented by trading in competitive secondary markets.

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2013
Aguiar,, et al.Crisis and Commitment: Inflation Credibility and the Vulnerability to Sovereign Debt Crises”. 2013: n. pag. Print.Abstract

We propose a continuous time model of nominal debt and investigate the role of inflation credibility in the potential for self-fulfilling debt crises. Inflation is costly, but reduces the real value of outstanding debt without the full punishment of default. With high inflation credibility, which can be interpreted as joining a monetary union or issuing foreign currency debt, debt is effectively real. By contrast, with low inflation credibility, sovereign debt is nominal and in a debt crisis a government may opt to inflate away a fraction of the debt burden rather than explicitly default. This flexibility potentially reduces the country's exposure to self-fulfilling crises. On the other hand, the government lacks credibility not to inflate in the absence of crisis. This latter channel raises the cost of debt in tranquil periods and makes default more attractive in the event of a crisis, increasing the country's vulnerability. We characterize the interaction of these two forces. We show that there is an intermediate inflation credibility that minimizes the country's exposure to rollover risk. Low inflation credibility brings the worst of both worlds---high inflation in tranquil periods and increased vulnerability to a crisis.

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Aguiar,, and Hurst. “Deconstructing Life Cycle Expenditure”. Journal of Political Economy 121.3 (2013): , 121, 3, 437-492. Web. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In this paper we revisit two well-known facts regarding lifecycle expenditures. The first is the familiar ``hump'' shaped lifecycle profile of nondurable expenditures. The second is that cross-household consumption inequality increases steadily throughout the lifecycle. We document that the behavior of total nondurables masks surprising heterogeneity in the lifecycle profile of individual consumption sub-components. We provide evidence that the categories driving lifecycle consumption are either inputs into market work (clothing and transportation) or are amenable to home production (food). Using a quantitative model, we document that the disaggregated lifecycle consumption profiles imply a level of uninsurable permanent income risk that is similar to that implied by wage data and substantially lower than that implied by a model using only a composite consumption good.

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Aguiar,, Hurst, and Karabarbounis. “The Life-Cycle Profile of Time Spent on Job Search”. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 2013: , 111-116. Print.PDF icon Published Version
Aguiar,, Hurst, and Karabarbounis. “Time Use during the Great Recession”. American Economic Review 103.5 (2013): , 103, 5, 1664-96. Print.Abstract

Using data from the American Time Use Survey between 2003 and 2010, we document that home production absorbs roughly 30 percent of foregone market work hours at business cycle frequencies. Leisure absorbs roughly 50 percent of foregone market work hours, with sleeping and television watching accounting for most of this increase. We document significant increases in time spent on shopping, child care, education, and health. Job search absorbs between 2 and 6 percent of foregone market work hours. We discuss the implications of our results for business cycle models with home production and non-separable preferences.

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2012
Aguiar,, Hurst, and Karabarbounis. “Recent Developments in the Economics of Time Use”. Annual Review of Economics 4 (2012): , 4, 373-397. Print.PDF icon Published Version
2011
Aguiar,, and Amador. “Growth in the Shadow of Expropriation”. Quarterly Journal of Economics 126.2 (2011): , 126, 2, 651-697. Print.Abstract

We propose a tractable variant of the open economy neoclassical growth model that emphasizes political economy and contracting frictions. The political economy frictions involve a preference for immediate spending, while the contracting friction is a lack of commitment regarding foreign debt and expropriation. We show that the political economy frictions slow an economy's convergence to the steady state due to the endogenous evolution of capital taxation. The model rationalizes why openness has different implications for growth depending on the political environment, why institutions such as the treatment of capital income evolve over time, why governments in countries that grow rapidly accumulate net foreign assets rather than liabilities, and why foreign aid may not affect growth.

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2009
Aguiar,, and Hurst. The Increase in Leisure Inequality: 1965-2005. Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 2009. Web. Publisher's VersionPDF icon Draft Manuscript
Aguiar,, Amador, and Gopinath. “Investment Cycles and Sovereign Debt Overhang”. Review of Economic Studies 176.1 (2009): , 176, 1, 1-31. Print.Abstract

We characterize optimal taxation of foreign capital and optimal sovereign debt policy in a small open economy where the government cannot commit to policy, seeks to insure a risk averse domestic constituency, and is more impatient than the market. Optimal policy generates long-run cycles in both sovereign debt and foreign direct investment in an environment in which the first best capital stock is a constant. The expected tax on capital endogenously varies with the state of the economy and investment is distorted by more in recessions than in booms, amplifying the effect of shocks. The government's lack of commitment induces a negative correlation between investment and the stock of government debt, a ``debt overhang'' effect. Debt relief is never Pareto improving and cannot affect the long-run level of investment. Furthermore, restricting the government to a balanced budget can eliminate the cyclical distortion of investment.

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Aguiar,, Amador, and Gopinath. “Expropriation Dynamics”. American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings 2009: , 473-479. Print.PDF icon Published VershionPDF icon Online AppendixPackage icon Python Code
2008
Aguiar,, and Hurst. “Permanent Income Hypothesis”. New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Web. Publisher's Version

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