Associated Programs

Explorations in Theory and Empirical Analysis

Explorations in Theory and Empirical Analysis

On occasion, scholars at the Levy Institute conduct research that does not fall within a current program or general topic area. Such study might include examination of a subject of particular policy interest, empirical research that has grown out of work in a current program area, or initial exploration in an area being considered for a new research program. Recent studies have included those on Harrodian growth models, the economic consequences of German reunification, and campaign finance reform.

Research Program

Economic Policy for the 21st Century



Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 795 | April 2014

    This paper contributes to the debate on income growth and distribution from a nonmainstream perspective. It looks, in particular, at the role that the degree of capacity utilization plays in the process of growth of an economy that is not perfectly competitive. The distinctive feature of the model presented in the paper is the hypothesis that the rate of capital depreciation is an increasing function of the degree of capacity utilization. This hypothesis implies analytical results that differ somewhat from those yielded by other Kaleckian models. Our model shows that, in a number of cases, the process of growth can be profit-led rather than wage-led. The model also determines the value to which the degree of capacity utilization converges in the long run.

  • Working Paper No. 786 | January 2014
    An Assessment from Popper’s Philosophy

    The rational expectations hypothesis (REH) is the standard approach to expectations formation in macroeconomics. We discuss its compatibility with two strands of Karl Popper´s philosophy: his theory of knowledge and learning, and his “rationality principle” (RP). First, we show that the REH is utterly incompatible with the former. Second, we argue that the REH can nevertheless be interpreted as a heuristic device that facilitates economic modeling and, consequently, it may be justified along the same lines as Popper´s RP. We then argue that, our position as to the resolution of this paradox notwithstanding, Popper´s philosophy provides a metatheoretical framework with which we can evaluate the REH. Within this framework, the REH can be viewed as a heuristic device or strategy that fulfils the same function as, for instance, the optimizing assumption. However, we believe that the REH imparts a serious methodological bias, since, by implying that macroeconomic instability is caused exclusively by “exogenous” shocks that randomly hit the economy, it precludes the analysis of any sources of inherent instability caused by the making of (nonrandom) errors by individuals, and hence it favors the creation of an institutional configuration that may be ill suited to address this type of instability.

  • Working Paper No. 782 | December 2013

    In this paper an alternative approach for the estimation of higher-order linear fixed-effects models is described. The strategy relies on the transformation of the data prior to calculating estimations of the model. While the approach is computationally intensive, the hardware requirements for the estimation process are minimal, allowing for the estimation of models with more than two high-order fixed effects for large datasets. An illustration of the implementation is presented using the US Census Bureau Current Population Survey data with four fixed effects.

  • Working Paper No. 781 | December 2013

    The paper seeks to lay out a stock-flow-based theoretical framework that provides a foundation for a general theory of pricing. Contemporary marginalist economics is usually based on the assumption that prices are set in line with the value placed on goods by consumers. It does not take into account expectations, or the fact that real goods are often simultaneously assets. Meanwhile, contemporary theories of asset markets are flawed in that they either rely, implicitly or explicitly, on a market equilibrium framework or provide no framework at all. This paper offers a working alternative that relies, not on a market equilibrium framework, but rather on a stock-flow equilibrium framework. In doing so, we lay out a properly general theory of pricing that can be applied to any market—whether financial, real, or a real market that has been financialized—and which does not require that prices inevitably tend toward some prespecified market equilibrium.

  • Working Paper No. 779 | November 2013
    An Application to the Labor Market

    This paper argues that a hierarchy of ideals exists in market interactions that sets the benchmark on the norm of fairness associated with these interactions, thus affecting pricing decisions associated with market exchange. As norms emerge, an ideal determines the criteria of optimal behavior and serves as a basis for market exchange. Norms homogenize the diversity of commodities in market interactions according to a hierarchy of norms and values. The paper then goes on to illustrate how this hierarchy of ideals works in the labor market, leading to inequality of access to jobs and wages between groups of individuals. Groups socially perceived to be diverging from the context-dependent dominant ideal are likely to suffer most in market interactions.

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    Author(s):
    Aurélie Charles
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  • Working Paper No. 777 | October 2013

    This paper presents a small macroeconomic model describing the main mechanisms of the process of credit creation by the private banking system. The model is composed of a core unit—where the dynamics of income, credit, and aggregate demand are determined—and a set of sectoral accounts that ensure its stock-flow consistency. In order to grasp the role of credit and banks in the functioning of the economic system, we make an explicit distinction between planned and realized variables, thanks to which, while maintaining the ex-post accounting consistency, we are able to introduce an ex-ante wedge between current aggregate income and planned expenditure. Private banks are the only economic agents capable of filling this gap through the creation of new credit. Through the use of numerical simulation, we discuss the link between credit creation and the expansion of economic activity, also contributing to a recent academic debate on the relation between income, debt, and aggregate demand.

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    Author(s):
    Giovanni Bernardo Emanuele Campiglio
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  • Working Paper No. 775 | September 2013
    The Limits to Neo-Kaleckian Models and a Kaldorian Proposal

    We argue that a fundamental difference between Post-Keynesian approaches to economic growth lies in their treatment of investment. Kaleckian-Robinsonian models postulate an investment function dependent on the accelerator and profitability. Some of these models rely on the importance of profitability, captured by the profit share, to make the case for profit-led growth. For their part, Kaldorian models place the emphasis on the accelerator. More important, investment is a derived demand; that is, it is ruled by the adjustment of capacity to exogenous demand, which, in turn, determines the normal level of capacity utilization.

    In our view, the Kaldorian approach is better equipped to deal with some of the issues relating income distribution to accumulation with effective demand in the long run. We develop a Kaldorian open-economy model to examine the conditions under which an increase in real wages can produce profit or wage-led growth, showing that the limit to a wage-led expansion is a binding external constraint. The role and limitations of wages as a determinant of growth are further examined through spectral techniques and cycle analysis for a subset of developed economies. The evidence indicates that real wages are positively related to growth, investment, and capacity utilization. It also highlights the role of finance in sustaining expansions, suggesting that debt-led growth should not be identified with profit-led growth.

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    Author(s):
    Esteban Pérez Caldentey Matías Vernengo
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  • Working Paper No. 773 | August 2013

    Keynes had many plausible things to say about unemployment and its causes. His “mercurial mind,” though, relied on intuition, which means that he could not strictly prove his hypotheses. This explains why Keynes’s ideas immediately invited bastardizations. One of them, the Phillips curve synthesis, turned out to be fatal. This paper identifies Keynes’s undifferentiated employment function as a sore spot. It is replaced by the structural employment function, which also supersedes the bastard Phillips curve. The paper demonstrates in a formal and rigorous manner why there is no trade-off between price inflation and unemployment.

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    Author(s):
    Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

  • Working Paper No. 770 | July 2013
    An Essay on the Business Cycle
    This paper presents a discussion of the forces at play behind the economic fluctuations in the medium run and their relation with the short-run macroeconomic equilibrium. The business cycle is the result of two separate phenomena. On the one hand, there is the instability caused by the discrepancy between expected and realized outcomes. On the other hand, this instability is contained by the inherent contradictions of capitalism; the upswing carries within it “the seeds of its own destruction.” The same happens with the downswing. The paper provides a formal exposition of these insights, a discussion of how the formulation of this mechanism resembles the simple harmonic motion of classical mechanics, and an empirical evaluation. 

  • Working Paper No. 766 | June 2013

    Should shocks be part of our macro-modeling tool kit—for example, as a way of modeling discontinuities in fiscal policy or big moves in the financial markets? What are shocks, and how can we best put them to use? In heterodox macroeconomics, shocks tend to come in two broad types, with some exceptions for hybrid cases. What I call Type 1 shocks are one-time exogenous changes in parameters or variables. They are used, for example, to set computer simulations in motion or to pose an analytical question about dynamic behavior outside of equilibrium. On the other hand, Type 2 shocks, by construction, occur at regular time intervals, and are usually drawn at random from a probability distribution of some kind. This paper is an appreciation and a survey of shocks and their admittedly scattered uses in the heterodox macro literature, along with some proposals and thoughts about using shocks to improve models. Since shocks of both types might appear at times to be ad hoc when used in macro models, this paper examines possible justifications for using them.