Essays in International Macroeconomics and Finance
My dissertation develops a set of tools for introducing heterogeneity into economic models in an analytically tractable way. Many models use the representative agent framework, which greatly simplifies macroeconomic aggregation but abstracts from the heterogeneity we see in the real world. In my research, I move away from the representative agent framework in two key ways. First, my work in international macroeconomics incorporates heterogeneity via idiosyncratic shocks across countries. Second, my work on financial frictions employs asymmetric information between lenders and borrowers. In both of these areas, my goal is to examine the implications of heterogeneity in the most tractable way possible. Crucially, these insights can be incorporated into the models currently used by academics and central banks for policy analysis. The first chapter of my dissertation, "Price Stability in Small Open Economies," joint work with Mikhail Dmitriev, studies the conduct of optimal monetary policy in a continuum of small open economies. We obtain a novel closed-form solution that does not restrict the elasticity of substitution between home and foreign goods to one. Using this global closed-form solution, we give an exact characterization of optimal monetary policy and welfare with and without international policy cooperation. We consider the cases of internationally complete asset markets and financial autarky, producer currency pricing and local currency pricing. Under producer currency pricing, it is always optimal to mimic the flexible-price equilibrium through a policy of price stability. Under local currency pricing, policy should fix the exchange rate. Even though countries have monopoly power, the continuum of small open economies implies that policymakers cannot affect world income. This inability to influence world income removes the incentive to deviate from price stability under producer currency pricing or a fixed exchange rate under local currency pricing, and prevents gains from international monetary cooperation in all cases examined. Our results contrast with those for large open economies, where interactions between home policy and world income drive optimal policy away from price stability or fixed exchange rates, and gains from cooperation are present. The second chapter of my dissertation, "The Optimal Design of a Fiscal Union'', joint work with Mikhail Dmitriev, examines the role of fiscal policy cooperation and financial market integration in an open economy setting, motivated by the recent crisis in the euro area. I show that the optimal design of a fiscal union is governed by the degree of substitutability between the export goods of different countries. When countries produce goods that are imperfect substitutes they should harmonize their income taxes to prevent large terms of trade externalities. On the other hand, when countries produce goods that are close substitutes, they should organize a contingent fiscal transfer scheme to insure against idiosyncratic shocks. The welfare gains from the optimal fiscal union are as high as 5\% of permanent consumption when countries are able to trade safe government bonds, and approach 20\% of permanent consumption when countries lose access to international financial markets. These gains are especially large for countries like Greece that produce highly substitutable export goods and who cannot raise funds on international financial markets to insure against downside risk. The results illustrate why federal currency unions such as the U.S., Canada and Australia, with income tax harmonization and built-in fiscal transfer arrangements, withstand asymmetric shocks across regions much better than the euro area, which lacks these ingredients at the moment. The third chapter of my dissertation, joint work with Mikhail Dmitriev, studies macro-financial linkages and the impact of financial frictions on real economic activity in some of my other work. Beginning with the Bernanke-Gertler-Gilchrist (1999) financial accelerator model, a large literature has shown that financial frictions amplify business cycles. Using this framework, Christiano, Motto and Rostagno (AER, 2013) show that shocks to financial frictions can explain business cycle fluctuations quite well. However, this literature relies on two ad hoc assumptions. When these assumptions are relaxed and agents have access to a broader set of lending contracts, the financial accelerator disappears, and shocks to financial frictions have little to no impact on the economy. In addition, under the ad hoc lending contract inflation targeting eliminates the financial accelerator. These results provide guidance for monetary policymakers and present a puzzle for macroeconomic theory.