Research Programs

Economic Policy for the 21st Century

Economic Policy for the 21st Century

Nearly all Levy Institute research focuses not only on economic analysis, but also on the creation of possible strategies through which policymakers may solve the issue at hand. This program includes research on those macroeconomic policy areas most closely associated with public sector activities: monetary policy and financial institutions, federal budget policy, and the labor market. Examples of studies on monetary policy and financial institutions include explorations of the repercussions the euro’s introduction has had on monetary and fiscal policies and monetary institutions within the European Community; the effectiveness of monetary policy; and Minskyan analyses of the current economic problems in the United States, Japan, and Brazil. Examinations of federal budget policies cover such topics as the effects of budget surpluses on the economy, the need for fiscal expansion to combat economic torpor, and analyses of the Social Security and health care systems.

Associated Programs

Federal Budget Policy
Explorations in Theory and Empirical Analysis

Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 807 | June 2014

    Recent research stresses the macroeconomic dimension of income distribution, but no theory has yet emerged. In this note, we introduce factor shares into popular growth models to gain insights into the macroeconomic effects of income distribution. The cost of modifying existing models is low compared to the benefits. We find, analytically, that (1) the multiplier is equal to the inverse of the labor share and is about 1.4; (2) income distribution matters mostly in the medium run; (3) output is wage led in the short run, i.e., as long as unemployment persists; (4) capacity expansion is profit led in the full-employment long run, but this is temporary and unstable.

  • In the Media | April 2013
    El Financiero, April 18, 2013. All Rights Reserved.

    Nueva York. – Las políticas ultraexpansivas de la Reserva Federal de Estados Unidos inevitablemente resultarán en la inestabilidad de los mercados financieros por años pero tales riesgos son necesarios para impulsar el empleo y la inflación, dijo el jueves un banquero central estadounidense.

    Relacionando a la Fed con una excursión en el estado de Minnesota en medio del invierno, el presidente de la Fed de Minneapolis Narayana Kocherlakota dijo que las tasas de interés reales bajas son tan necesarias como vestir una cálida parka, y probablemente sean necesarias "por varios años más".

    Reforzando su argumento expansionista, de que hay que aliviar aún más el crédito, el funcionario dijo que el débil panorama económico sugiere que las tasas deberían ser todavía más bajas pese a la resultante inflación de los precios de los activos, los retornos volátiles y la mayor actividad de fusiones corporativas.

    "Por muchos años más", dijo, el comité monetario de la Fed "solo podrá lograr sus objetivos establecidos por el Congreso si sigue políticas que resulten en señales de inestabilidad de los mercados financieros", dijo Kocherlakota en comentarios preparados para una conferencia Hyman P. Minsky.
  • Working Paper No. 687 | September 2011
    A Study of Rice Farms in the Bicol Region, Philippines

    This paper presents an empirical investigation of the relationship between the spread, spatially and temporally, of market institutions and improvements in the productivity and efficiency of farmers. The data used in this study were collected over two decades in a sample of rice farms in the Bicol Region of the Philippines. Our estimates reveal a significant inverse relationship between distance from the market and farm productivity and efficiency in 1983. While there are substantial improvements in yields, unit costs, and efficiency in the two decades that followed, the gains are larger in the more remote and sparsely populated villages. This finding suggests that the relationship between remoteness and farm outcomes has weakened over time. We also find that the development of markets in the peripheral villages and the improved connectivity between the peripheral villages and market centers are facilitated by population growth, infrastructural investments (specifically, irrigation and roads), and the availability of agricultural extension programs.

  • Working Paper No. 627 | October 2010

    For the past decade, the US economy has been driven not by industrial investment but by a real estate bubble. Although the United States may seem to be the leading example of industrial capitalism, its economy is no longer based mainly on investing in capital goods to employ labor to produce output to sell at a profit. The largest sector remains real estate, whose cash flow (EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) accounts for over a quarter of national income. Financially, mortgages account for 70 percent of the US economy’s interest payments, reflecting the fact that real estate is the financial system’s major customer.

    As the economy’s largest asset category, real estate generates most of the economy’s capital gains. The gains are the aim of real investors, as the real estate sector normally operates without declaring any profit. Investors agree to pay their net rental income to their mortgage banker, hoping to sell the property at a capital gain (mainly a land-price gain).

    The tax system encourages this debt pyramiding. Interest and depreciation absorb most of the cash flow, leaving no income tax due for most of the post-1945 period. States and localities have shifted their tax base off property onto labor via income and sales taxes. Most important, capital gains are taxed at a much lower rate than are current earnings. Investors do not have to pay any capital gains tax at all as long as they invest their gains in the purchase of new property.

    This tax favoritism toward real estate—and behind it, toward bankers as mortgage lenders—has spurred a shift in US investment away from industry and toward speculation, mainly in real estate but also in the stock and bond markets. A postindustrial economy is thus largely a financialized economy that carries its debt burden by borrowing against capital gains to pay the interest and taxes falling due.

  • Working Paper No. 596 | May 2010
    The process of constructing impulse-response functions (IRFs) and forecast-error variance decompositions (FEVDs) for a structural vector autoregression (SVAR) usually involves a factorization of an estimate of the error-term variance-covariance matrix V. Examining residuals from a monetary VAR, this paper finds evidence suggesting that all of the variances in V are infinite. Specifically, this study estimates alpha-stable distributions for the reduced-form error terms. The ML estimates of the residuals’ characteristic exponents α range from 1.5504 to 1.7734, with the Gaussian case lying outside 95 percent asymptotic confidence intervals for all six equations of the VAR. Variance-stabilized P-P plots show that the estimated distributions fit the residuals well. Results for subsamples are varied, while GARCH(1,1) filtering yields standardized shocks that are also all likely to be non-Gaussian alpha stable. When one or more error terms have infinite variance, V cannot be factored. Moreover, by Proposition 1, the reduced-form DGP cannot be transformed, using the required nonsingular matrix, into an appropriate system of structural equations with orthogonal, or even finite-variance, shocks. This result holds with arbitrary sets of identifying restrictions, including even the null set. Hence, with one or more infinite-variance error terms, structural interpretation of the reduced-form VAR within the standard SVAR model is impossible.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 110 | March 2010

    The United States has the most expensive health care system in the world, yet its system produces inferior outcomes relative to those in other countries. This brief examines the health care reform debate and argues that the basic structure of the health care system is unlikely to change, because “reform” measures actually promote the status quo. The authors believe that the fundamental problem facing the US health care system is the unhealthy lifestyle of many Americans. They prefer to see a reduced role for private insurers and an increased role for government funding, along with greater public discussion of environmental and lifestyle factors. A Medicare buy-in (“public option”) for people under 65 would provide more cost control (by competing with private insurance), help to solve the problem of treatment denial based on preexisting conditions, expand the risk pool of patients, and enhance the global competitiveness of US corporations—thus bringing the US health care system closer to the “ideal” low-cost, universal (single-payer) insurance plan.

  • Working Paper No. 575 | August 2009

    Utilizing a 2002 household-level World Bank Survey for rural Turkey, this paper explores the link between concentration of land ownership and rural factor markets. We construct a unique index that measures market malfunctioning based on the neoclassical model linking land and labor endowments through factor markets to household income. We further test whether land ownership concentration affects market malfunctioning. Our empirical investigation supports the claim that factor markets are structurally limited in reducing existing inequalities as a result of land ownership concentration. Our findings show that in the presence of land ownership inequality, malfunctioning rural factor markets result in increased land concentration, increased income inequality, and inefficient resource allocation. This work fills an important empirical gap within the development literature and establishes a positive association between asset inequality and factor market failure.

  • Working Paper No. 571 | August 2009


    Self-reported home values are widely used as a measure of housing wealth by researchers; the accuracy of this measure, however, is an open empirical question, and requires some type of market assessment of the values reported. In this study, the authors examine the predictive power of self-reported housing wealth when estimating housing prices, utilizing the portion of the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study covering 1992–2006. They find that homeowners, on average, overestimate the value of their properties by 5–10 percent. More importantly, the authors establish a strong correlation between accuracy and the economic conditions at the time of the property’s purchase. While most individuals overestimate the value of their property, those who buy during more difficult economic times tend to be more accurate; in some cases, they even underestimate the property's value. The authors find a surprisingly strong, likely permanent, and in many cases long-lived effect of the initial conditions surrounding the purchase of properties, and on how individuals value them. This cyclicality of the overestimation of house prices provides some explanation for the difficulties currently faced by many homeowners, who were expecting large appreciations in home value to rescue them in case of interest rate increases—which could jeopardize their ability to live up to their financial commitments.


    Associated Program(s):
    Hugo Benítez-Silva Selçuk Eren Frank Heiland Sergi Jiménez-Martín
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 564 | May 2009

    This paper is concerned with the New Consensus Macroeconomics (NCM) in the case of an open economy. It outlines and explains briefly the main elements of and way of thinking about the macroeconomy from the standpoint of both its theoretical and its policy dimensions. There are a few problems with this particular theoretical framework. We focus here on two important aspects closely related to NCM: the absence of banks and monetary aggregates from this theoretical framework, and the way the notion of the “equilibrium real rate of interest” is utilized by the same framework. The analysis is critical of NCM from a Keynesian perspective.