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. 943 | January 2020
    Whether China’s low fertility rate is the consequence of the country’s strict population control policy is a puzzling question. This paper attempts to disentangle the Chinese population control policy’s impacts on the fertility rate from socioeconomic factors using the synthetic control method proposed by Abadie and Gardeazabal (2003). The results indicate that the population control policy significantly decreased China’s birth rate after the “Later, Longer, and Fewer” policy came into force, but had little effect on the birth rate in the long run. We estimate that between 164.2 million and 268.3 million prevented births from 1971 to 2016 can be attributed to the Chinese population control policy. In addition, we implement a placebo study to check the validity of the method and confirm the robustness of the paper’s conclusions.

  • Working Paper No. 942 | January 2020
    This paper emphasizes the need for understanding the interdependencies between the real and financial sides of the economy in macroeconomic models. While the real side of the economy is generally well explained in macroeconomic models, the financial side and its interaction with the real economy remains poorly understood. This paper makes an attempt to model the interdependencies between the real and financial sides of the economy in Denmark while adopting a stock-flow consistent approach. The model is estimated using Danish data for the period 1995–2016. The model is simulated to create a baseline scenario for the period 2017–30, against which the effects of two standard shocks (fiscal shocks and interest rate shocks) are analyzed. Overall, our model is able to replicate the stylized facts, as will be discussed. While the model structure is fairly simple due to different constraints, the use of the stock-flow approach makes it possible to explain several transmission mechanisms through which real economic behavior can affect the balance sheets, and at the same time capture the feedback effects from the balance sheets to the real economy. Finally, we discuss certain limitations of our model.

  • Working Paper No. 940 | November 2019
    A Rejoinder and Some Comments
    The critique by Gahn and González (2019) of the conclusions in Nikiforos (2016) regarding what data should be used to evaluate whether capacity utilization is endogenous to demand is weak for the following reasons: (i) The Federal Reserve Board (FRB) measure of utilization is not appropriate for measuring long-run variations of utilization because of the method and purpose of its construction. Even if its difference from the measures of the average workweek of capital(AWW) were trivial, this would still be the case; if anything, it would show that the AWW is also an inappropriate measure. (ii) Gahn and González choose to ignore the longest available estimate of the AWW produced by Foss, which has a clear long-run trend. (iii) Their econometric results are not robust to more suitable specifications of the unit root tests. Under these specifications, the tests overwhelmingly fail to reject the unit root hypothesis. (iv) Other estimates of the AWW, which were not included in Nikiforos (2016) confirm these conclusions. v) For the comparison between the AWW series and the FRB series, they construct variables that are not meaningful because they subtract series in different units. When the comparison is done correctly, the results confirm that the difference between the AWW series and the FRB series has a unit root. (vi) A stationary utilization rate is not consistent with any theory of the determination of capacity utilization. Even if demand did not play a role, there is no reason to expect that all the other factors that determine utilization would change in a fashion that would keep utilization constant.

  • Working Paper No. 907 | May 2018
    The paper discusses the Sraffian supermultiplier (SSM) approach to growth and distribution. It makes five points. First, in the short run the role of autonomous expenditure can be appreciated within a standard post-Keynesian framework (Kaleckian, Kaldorian, Robinsonian, etc.). Second, and related to the first, the SSM model is a model of the long run and has to be evaluated as such. Third, in the long run, one way that capacity adjusts to demand is through an endogenous adjustment of the rate of utilization. Fourth, the SSM model is a peculiar way to reach what Garegnani called the “Second Keynesian Position.” Although it respects the letter of the “Keynesian hypothesis,” it makes investment quasi-endogenous and subjects it to the growth of autonomous expenditure. Fifth, in the long run it is unlikely that “autonomous expenditure” is really autonomous. From a stock-flow consistent point of view, this implies unrealistic adjustments after periods of changes in stock-flow ratios. Moreover, if we were to take this kind of adjustment at face value, there would be no space for Minskyan financial cycles. This also creates serious problems for the empirical validation of the model.

  • Working Paper No. 905 | May 2018
    The Vested Interests, Limits to Reform, and the Meaning of Liberal Democracy
    I subject some aspects of Roosevelt’s “New Deal” to critical analysis, with particular attention to what is termed “liberal democracy.” This analysis demonstrates the limits to reform, given the power of “vested interests” as articulated by Thorstein Veblen.
     
    While progressive economists and others are generally favorably disposed toward the New Deal, a critical perspective casts doubt on the progressive nature of the various programs instituted during the Roosevelt administrations. The main constraint that limited the framing and operation of these programs was that of maintaining liberal democracy. The New Deal was shaped by the institutional forces then dominant in the United States, including the segregationist system of the South. In the end, vested interests dictated what transpired, but what did transpire required a modification of the understanding of liberal democracy.

  • Book Series | March 2018
    Edited by Marcella Corsi, Jan Kregel, and Carlo D'Ippoliti
    Edited by Marcella Corsi, Sapienza University of Rome, Levy Institute Director of Research Jan Kregel, and Carlo D’Ippoliti, Sapienza University of Rome, this new collection of 16 essays is dedicated to Alessandro Roncaglia and deals with the themes that “have characterized his work or represent expressions of his personality, his interests and method," particularly his contributions to the interpretation of classical political economists as a means for informing present-day policy.

    Published by: Anthem Press
  • Working Paper No. 879 | December 2016

    This paper presents a methodological discussion of two recent “endogeneity” critiques of the Kaleckian model and the concept of distribution-led growth. From a neo-Keynesian perspective, and following Kaldor (1955) and Robinson (1956), the model is criticized because it treats distribution as quasi-exogenous, while in Skott (2016) distribution is viewed as endogenously determined by a series of (exogenous) institutional factors and social norms, and therefore one should focus on these instead of the functional distribution of income per se. The paper discusses how abstraction is used in science and economics, and employs the criteria proposed by Lawson (1989) for what constitutes an appropriate abstraction. Based on this discussion, it concludes that the criticisms are not valid, although the issues raised by Skott provide some interesting directions for future work within the Kaleckian framework.

  • Working Paper No. 857 | December 2015

    This paper describes the transformations in federal classification of ethno-racial information since the civil rights era of the 1960s. These changes were introduced in the censuses of 1980 and 2000, and we anticipate another major change in the 2020 Census. The most important changes in 1980 introduced the Hispanic Origin and Ancestry questions and the elimination of two questions on parental birthplace. The latter decision has made it impossible to adequately track the progress of the new second generation. The change in 2000 allowed respondents to declare origins in more than one race; the anticipated change for 2020 will create a single question covering race and Hispanic Origin—or, stated more broadly, race and ethnic origin. We show that the 1980 changes created problems in race and ethnic classification that required a “fix,” and the transformation anticipated for 2020 will be that fix. Creating the unified question in the manner the Census Bureau is testing will accomplish by far the hardest part of what we believe should be done. However, we suggest two additional changes of a much simpler nature: restoring the parental birthplace questions (to the annual American Community Survey) and possibly eliminating the Ancestry question (the information it gathered will apparently now be obtained in the single race-and-ethnicity question). The paper is historical in focus. It surveys how the classification system prior to 1980 dealt with the tension between ethno-racial continuity and assimilation (differently for each major type of group); how the political pressures producing the changes of 1980 and 2000 changed the treatment of that tension; and, finally, the building pressure for a further change.

  • Working Paper No. 854 | November 2015
    Graph Theory and Macroeconomic Regimes in Stock-flow Consistent Modeling

    Standard presentations of stock-flow consistent modeling use specific Post Keynesian closures, even though a given stock-flow accounting structure supports various different economic dynamics. In this paper we separate the dynamic closure from the accounting constraints and cast the latter in the language of graph theory. The graph formulation provides (1) a representation of an economy as a collection of cash flows on a network and (2) a collection of algebraic techniques to identify independent versus dependent cash-flow variables and solve the accounting constraints. The separation into independent and dependent variables is not unique, and we argue that each such separation can be interpreted as an institutional structure or policy regime. Questions about macroeconomic regime change can thus be addressed within this framework.

    We illustrate the graph tools through application of the simple stock-flow consistent model, or “SIM model,” found in Godley and Lavoie (2007). In this model there are eight different possible dynamic closures of the same underlying accounting structure. We classify the possible closures and discuss three of them in detail: the “standard” Godley–Lavoie closure, where government spending is the key policy lever; an “austerity” regime, where government spending adjusts to taxes that depend on private sector decisions; and a “colonial” regime, which is driven by taxation.

  • Working Paper No. 846 | October 2015
    Steindl after Summers

    The current debate on secular stagnation is suffering from some vagueness and several shortcomings. The same is true for the economic policy implications. Therefore, we provide an alternative view on stagnation tendencies based on Josef Steindl’s contributions. In particular, Steindl (1952) can be viewed as a pioneering work in the area of stagnation in modern capitalism. We hold that this work is not prone to the problems detected in the current debate on secular stagnation: It does not rely on the dubious notion of an equilibrium real interest rate as the equilibrating force of saving and investment at full employment levels, in principle, with the adjustment process currently blocked by the unfeasibility of a very low or even negative equilibrium rate. It is based on the notion that modern capitalist economies are facing aggregate demand constraints, and that saving adjusts to investment through income growth and changes in capacity utilization in the long run. It allows for potential growth to become endogenous to actual demand-driven growth. And it seriously considers the role of institutions and power relationships for long-run growth—and for stagnation.