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
INET–Levy Institute Project
Climate Change and Economic Policy

Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 1045 | March 2024
    This inquiry examines the role of federal policy in gender inequality using the principles of institutional adjustment (Foster 1981; Bush 1987) in the context of the Veblenian dichotomy of habit formation. Specifically, the authors assert that Social Security, though exclusive at its inception in 1935, has undergone significant institutional adjustment. Today, Social Security plays a determining role in providing the appropriate institutional space for not only increasing economic security for older women, but also for reducing gender inequality overall.

  • Working Paper No. 1042 | February 2024
    For more than 25 years, the Social Security Trust Fund was projected to run out of money in 2033 (give or take a few years), potentially causing benefits to be severely reduced in the absence of corrective legislative action. Today (February 2024), projections are made by the Social Security Administration that indicate that future benefits will need to be reduced by roughly 25 percent or taxes will need to be increased by about 33 percent, or some combination to avoid benefit curtailment. While Congress will most probably prevent benefits from being reduced for retirees and those nearing retirement, the longer Congress and the president take to address the shortfall, the more politically unpalatable (and possibly draconian) the solutions will be for all others.
    Dozens of proposals are being evaluated to address the long-term problem by mainstream benefits experts, economists, think tanks, politicians, and government agencies but, with rare exceptions from a few economists, none address the short-term problem of Trust Fund depletion, provide a workable roadmap for the long-term challenges, or consider fundamental financing differences between the federal government and the private sector.
    This paper aims to address these issues by suggesting legislative changes that will protect the Social Security system indefinitely, help ensure the adequacy of benefits for retirees and their survivors and dependents, and remove confusing and misleading legislative and administrative complexity. In making recommendations, this paper will demonstrate that the Social Security Trust Funds, while legally distinct, are essentially an artificial accounting contrivance within the US Treasury that have become a tool to force program changes that, for ideological reasons, will likely shift an increasing financial burden onto those who can least bear it.  Finally, while the focus of this paper is on the Social Security system, it would be incomplete without also addressing, albeit in a limited way, the larger political issue of the nation’s debt and deficit along with the implications for inflation.

  • Working Paper No. 1038 | January 2024
    This paper revisits Keynes’s (1930) essay titled “The economic possibilities for our grandchildren.” We discuss the three broader trends identified by Keynes that he expected would come to characterize the socio-economic evolution of advanced countries under individualistic capitalism: first, continued technological progress and capital accumulation as the main drivers of exponential growth in economic possibilities; second, a gradual general rebalancing of life choices away from work; and third, a change in the code of morals in societies approaching an envisioned stationary state of zero net capital accumulation in which mankind has solved its economic problem and enjoys a lifestyle predominantly framed by leisure rather than disutility-yielding work. We assess actual outcomes by 2023 and attempt to peek into the future economic possibilities for this generation’s grandchildren.

  • Working Paper No. 1037 | January 2024
    The post-pandemic surge in inflation was accompanied by a surge in the corporate share of profits. As a result, several economists and policy makers have given to it names such as “profit-led inflation” or “sellers’ inflation.” The present paper discusses the extent to which profit-led inflation, as an explanation for the recent surge in inflation, is compatible with what we know about the price-setting behavior of firms, income distribution, and inflation. We do that in juxtaposition to two recent critiques: that the increase in the profit share is the result of cyclical factors, and that the increase in import prices leads to higher profit shares even under constant markups. We show that there is little evidence that the recent surge in profitability is cyclical in nature. Moreover, after outlining the Structuralist/Kaleckian theories of prices and inflation we argue that profit-led inflation does not require an increase in the markup of the firms and is consistent with these theories. In the face of large import and other price shocks even under constant markups, firms are able to pass the burden of adjustment to real wages. Thus, the term profit-led emphasizes the distributional source and consequences of inflation. We also provide an empirical examination of the markups in the post-pandemic period using data from the Compustat database. We show that, on average, firms were able to increase or maintain their markups, although there is significant heterogeneity across sectors or the position of the firms in the distribution of markups.

  • One-Pager No. 71 | December 2023
    In comparison to the policy responses in the aftermath of the 2008–9 global financial crisis, the reactions of EU policymakers to the combined shocks of the COVID-19 crisis and Ukraine-Russia conflict reveal a greater willingness to deploy public finance in support of the population. Yet, while this display of renewed solidarity is commendable, policymakers have a long way to go in building a more resilient and sustainable EU. A confrontation with long-standing “business as usual” EU rules and policies is necessary, and it is in this context that the job guarantee deserves serious consideration. Acting for the common purpose of reducing and eventually eliminating long-term unemployment would send a clear message that a Social Europe is possible.

  • Working Paper No. 1033 | November 2023
    The research leverages yearly variations in climate variables, such as rainfall and temperature, across the West Bank from 1999 to 2018 to assess their influence on individuals' decisions to stay in the agricultural sector. The main findings suggest that an increase in rainfall in the previous year is associated with a higher proportion of workers in the agricultural sector, especially in regions where agriculture is the primary economic activity. Temperature variation is also an important factor. An increase in the maximum temperature will generally have a negative effect on the supply of labor in the agricultural sector, while an increase in the minimum temperature may have a positive effect. However, this effect varies across different regions of the West Bank, reflecting the diverse agricultural practices and irrigation methods employed. The study also examines two potential mechanisms through which climate change affects labor decisions: agricultural labor migration to the Israeli labor market and how climate shocks affect agricultural wages.

  • Working Paper No. 1023 | July 2023
    Evidence From an Emerging Country, India
    According to the theory of efficient markets, economic agents use all available information to form rational expectations. The rational expectations hypothesis asserts that information is scarce, the economic system generally does not waste information, and that expectations depend specifically on the structure of the entire system. Fiscal marksmanship—the accuracy of budgetary forecasting—can be one important piece of such information that rational agents must consider in forming expectations. Against the backdrop of fiscal rules, our paper explores the budgetary forecast errors of climate change–related public spending in India. The fiscal rules stipulate that fiscal deficit–to–GDP ratio should be maintained at 3 percent. However, in the post-COVID fiscal strategy, a medium-term fiscal consolidation path of 4.5 percent fiscal deficit–to­–GDP is envisioned by 2025–26. Within this fiscal consolidation framework, we analyzed the budget credibility of fiscal commitments for climate change in India. We analyzed the fiscal behavioral variables in terms of bias, variation, and randomness, and captured the systemic variations in budgetary forecast related to climate change for a period 2017–18 to 2020–21 across sectors. We identified the sectors where systematic components of forecasting errors are relatively higher than random components, where minimizing errors through altering the fiscal behavioral models is done by revising the assumptions and by applying better forecasting methods. A state-level decomposition of the public spending revealed that disaggregated fiscal space available for developmental spending constitutes around 60 percent of the total. However, identifying the specifically targeted public spending related to climate change across all states and analyzing its fiscal markmanship can further the subnational inferences.

  • Working Paper No. 1013 | January 2023
    A Sectoral Multiplier Analysis for the United States
    We assess the sectoral impact of the implementation of a “green” employer of last resort (ELR) program in the US, based on an environmental modification of an extended Kurz’s (1985) multiplier framework and data from OECD Input-Output tables. We use these multipliers to estimate the impact of an “optimal” ELR, designed to maximize the impact on both output and employment while minimizing both imports and carbon emissions. We then test several alternative policy scenarios based upon different compositions of US government expenditure. We provide evidence that (1) investing in the optimal sectors in terms of output, employment, Co2, and import multipliers does not always deliver optimal results in the aggregate; (2) ecological sustainability for the US economy also fosters import sustainability; (3) a rebounding effect in Co2 emissions may be tamed if the ELR satisfies the abovementioned optimality condition, though this undermines its success in terms of output and employment. 

  • Working Paper No. 1007 | May 2022
    Evidence from West Bank Schools
    The current study aims to investigate the impact of academic achievement on child labor. The study utilizes survey data collected from Palestinian children in West Bank schools who are in the primary grades (5th–9th). The results show that increasing a child’s academic achievement is significantly associated with decreasing the probability that a child works for money in the following period. Our findings varied among children according to their gender, age, and parental academic background. Our analyses are subject to different specifications, including two-stage least squares (2SLS) to account for potential endogeneity. The results provide robust evidence about the linkage between school performance and child labor in the West Bank. Further, the study proposes an assessment of the child’s mental health problems by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) as a potential mechanism through which the child’s achievement at school affects child labor.
    Associated Program:
    Sameh Hallaq Ayman Khalifah
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 1004 | March 2022
    A Theoretical Framework
    Liabilities denominated in foreign currency have established a permanent role on emerging market firms’ balance sheets, which implies that changes in both global liquidity conditions and in the value of the currency may have a long-lasting effect for them. In order to consider the financial conditions that may encourage (discourage) structural change in a small, open economy, we adopt the framework put forward by the “monetary theory of distribution” (MTD). More specifically, we follow the formulation adopted by Dvoskin and Feldman (2019), whereby the financial system is intended as a basic sector that promotes innovation (Schumpeter 1911). In accordance with this, financial conditions are binding only for the innovative entrepreneurs, whose methods of production are not dominant and hence they need to borrow from banks to kickstart their production. Through this device, our model offers an explanation of the technological lock-in experienced by a small, open economy that takes international prices as given.