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Consumer Cash Usage: A Cross-Country Comparison with Payment Diary Survey Data

August 20, 2014 Comments off

Consumer Cash Usage: A Cross-Country Comparison with Payment Diary Survey Data
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

We measure consumers’ use of cash by harmonizing payment diary surveys from seven countries. The seven diary surveys were conducted in 2009 (Canada), 2010 (Australia), 2011 (Austria, France, Germany, and the Netherlands), and 2012 (the United States). Our paper finds cross-country differences — for example, the level of cash use differs across countries. Cash has not disappeared as a payment instrument, especially for low-value transactions. We also find that the use of cash is strongly correlated with transaction size, demographics, and point-of-sale characteristics such as merchant card acceptance and venue.

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Walking a Tightrope: Are U.S. State and Local Governments on a Fiscally Sustainable Path?

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Walking a Tightrope: Are U.S. State and Local Governments on a Fiscally Sustainable Path?
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

This paper develops a new measure of state and local fiscal sustainability called the “trend gap,” which is based on socioeconomic and other fundamental factors and removes the short-term influence of the business cycle. The paper estimates the trend gap and finds that the nationwide per capita trend gap has been on a growing path over the past three decades, a different conclusion than found in previous studies. Social insurance and income maintenance programs have played a major role in the growth of the trend gap, while pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) plans have become increasingly important in driving it up. In addition, there are large and growing disparities in the trend gap across states.

Shifting Confidence in Homeownership: The Great Recession

July 26, 2012 Comments off

Shifting Confidence in Homeownership: The Great Recession
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

The authors study the responses to several questions related to real estate that were added to the Michigan Survey of Consumers in July and August 2011. In particular, they asked about attitudes toward renting versus buying a home, about commuting, and about how much to spend on a mortgage. By matching the results to data (at the ZIP-code level) about relative house price declines during the recent crisis, they can study the relationship between the U.S. housing crash and the attitudes of individual consumers. They find that younger respondents are relatively less confident about homeownership after larger price declines, while older respondents are relatively more confident. In both cases, this is observed only for those with direct experience of loss (via themselves or someone close) during the crash. They find no effect on attitudes towards commuting, and they find that people who live in the high-decline areas believe it is appropriate to spend more on a mortgage.

Inflation Dynamics When Inflation is Near Zero

March 2, 2012 Comments off

Inflation Dynamics When Inflation is Near Zero
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

This paper discusses the likely evolution of U.S. inflation in the near and medium term on the basis of (1) past U.S. experience with very low levels of inflation, (2) the most recent Japanese experience with deflation, and (3) recent U.S. micro evidence on downward nominal wage rigidity. Our findings question the view that stable long-run inflation expectations and downward nominal wage rigidity will provide sufficient support to prices such that deflation can be avoided. We show that an inflation model fitted on Japanese data over the past 20 years, which accounts for both short- and long-run inflation expectations, matches the recent U.S. inflation experience quite well. While the model indicates that U.S. inflation might be subject to a lower bound, it does not rule out a prolonged period of mild deflation going forward. In addition, our micro evidence on wages suggests no obvious downward rigidity in the firm’s wage costs, downward rigidity in individual wages notwithstanding. As a consequence, downward nominal wage rigidity may provide little offset to deflationary pressures in the current U.S. situation, despite some circumstantial evidence that this channel might have been at work in the past.

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The Great Recession and Bank Lending to Small Businesses

January 13, 2012 Comments off

The Great Recession and Bank Lending to Small Businesses
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

This paper investigates whether small firms have experienced worse tightening of credit conditions during the Great Recession than large firms. To structure the empirical analysis, the paper first develops a simple model of bank loan pricing that derives both the interest rates on loans actually made and the marginal condition for loans that would be rationed in the event of an economic downturn. Empirical estimations using loan-level data find evidence that, once we account for the contractual features of business loans made under formal commitments to lend, interest rate spreads on small loans have declined on average relative to spreads on large loans during the Great Recession. Quantile regressions further reveal that the relative decline in average spread is entirely accounted for by loans to the riskier borrowers. These findings are consistent with the pattern of differentially more rationing of credit to small borrowers in recessions as predicted by the model. This suggests that policy measures that counter this effect by encouraging lending to small businesses may be effective in stimulating their recovery and, in turn, job growth.

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