Can the Covid Bailouts Save the Economy? - accepted at Economic Policy

Co-authors: Tim Landvoigt and Stijn van Nieuwerburgh

The covid-19 crisis has led to a sharp deterioration in firm and bank balance sheets. The government has responded with a massive intervention in corporate credit markets. We study equilibrium dynamics of macroeconomic quantities and prices, and how they are affected by government intervention in the corporate debt markets. We find that the interventions should be highly effective at preventing a much deeper crisis by reducing corporate bankruptcies by about half, and short-circuiting the doom loop between corporate and financial sector fragility. The fiscal costs are high and will lead to rising interest rates on government debt. We propose a more effective intervention with lower fiscal cost. Finally, we study longer-run consequences for firm leverage and intermediary health when pandemics become the new normal.

A Macroeconomic Model with Financially Constrained Producers and Intermediaries
Econometrica, Vol. 89, No. 3 (May, 2021),

Co-authors: Tim Landvoigt and Stijn van Nieuwerburgh

How much capital should financial intermediaries hold? We propose a general equilibrium model with a financial sector that makes risky long-term loans to firms, funded by deposits from savers. Government guarantees create a role for bank capital regulation. The model captures the sharp and persistent drop in macro-economic aggregates and credit provision as well as the sharp change in credit spreads observed during the Great Recession. Policies requiring intermediaries to hold more capital reduce financial fragility, reduce the size of the financial and non-financial sectors, and lower intermediary profits. They redistribute wealth from savers to the owners of banks and non-financial firms. Pre-crisis capital requirements are close to optimal. Counter-cyclical capital requirements increase welfare.

Phasing out the GSEs -- Journal of Monetary Economics (July 2016)

Co-authors: Tim Landvoigt and Stijn van Nieuwerburgh

We develop a new model of the mortgage market that emphasizes the role of the financial sector and the government. Risk tolerant savers act as intermediaries between risk averse depositors and impatient borrowers. Both borrowers and intermediaries can default. The government provides both mortgage guarantees and deposit insurance. Underpriced government mortgage guarantees lead to more and riskier mortgage originations and higher financial sector leverage. Mortgage crises occasionally turn into financial crises and government bailouts due to the fragility of the intermediaries' balance sheets. Foreclosure crises beget fiscal uncertainty, further disrupting the optimal allocation of risk in the economy. Increasing the price of the mortgage guarantee "crowds in" the private sector, reduces financial fragility, leads to fewer but safer mortgages, lowers house prices, and raises mortgage and risk-free interest rates. Due to a more robust financial sector and less fiscal uncertainty, consumption smoothing improves and foreclosure rates fall. While borrowers are nearly indifferent to a world with or without mortgage guarantees, savers are substantially better off. While aggregate welfare increases, so does wealth inequality.

Working Papers

COVID-19 Stay-Home Orders: Direct and Spillover Effects from Staggered U.S. County Adoption

Co-authors: Luis Quintero, Alessandro Rebucci, and Emilia Simeonova

Local policies can have substantial spillovers both across geographies and markets. Despite the developed literature documenting spillovers from local tax policies, little is known about the impact of public health regulations across borders. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need to better understand the effects and mechanisms through which public health policies operate across time and space. We estimate the direct and spillover effects of Stay-at-Home-Orders (SHO) on mobility measures of social distancing measures and interaction to contain the spread of COVID-19 at the U.S. county level. Adopting counties should experience a decline in mobility due to the direct effect, while neighbors may experience a spillover, the sign of which is ambiguous from a theoretical perspective. We propose a modified difference-in-difference contiguous-county triplets regression design, comparing both a county that adopted the SHO and its neighbor that did not to a neighbor's neighbor ("hinterland") county. We find that mobility in neighboring counties declined by a third to a half as much as in the directly treated county. These spillovers are concentrated in triplets sharing the same media sources of news and information. Using directional mobility data, we decompose the neighboring counties' decline in mobility into a reduction in external visits from the treated county and a comparably larger voluntary reduction in the neighboring county's own traffic. Together, our results provide strong evidence that SHOs operate through information-sharing and illustrate the quantitative importance of voluntary social distancing. The finding that the estimated spillovers are in the same direction as the direct effects casts doubt on the prevailing narrative that a more nationally coordinated policy response would have accomplished a greater reduction in mobility and contacts.

Mortgage Credit, Aggregate Demand, and Unconventional Monetary Policy

I develop a quantitative model of the mortgage market operating in an economy with financial frictions and nominal rigidities. I use this model to study the effectiveness of large-scale asset purchases (LSAPs) by a central bank as a tool of monetary policy. When negative shocks hit, homeowner and financial sector balance sheets are impaired, borrowing constraints bind, asset prices and aggregate demand drop, hampering the transmission of conventional monetary policy. LSAPs boost aggregate demand in a crisis by directing additional lending to homeowners, raising house prices, and establishing expectations of future financial stability. However, subsequent policy normalization requires the financial sector to absorb heightened levels of borrower debt, depressing output and consumption in recovery. In the long run, a commitment to ongoing use of LSAPs in crises reduces credit and business cycle volatility and redistributes resources from borrowers and intermediaries to savers.

Works in Progress

Quantitative Tightening

Co-authors: Miguel Faria-e-Castro and Dan Greenwald

Reconstruction Land Ownership

Co-authors: Luke Stein and Constantin Yannelis

Method for Solving Finitely Heterogeneous Agent Models with Occasionally Binding Constraints

Co-author: Tim Landvoigt