Technical Change and Entrepreneurship (June, 2019)
Abstract. In this paper, I show that the proportion of entrepreneurs among US households has declined substantially over the last three decades. I also show that this decline is mostly accounted for by a drop in the share of entrepreneurs among the college graduates. Then, using an otherwise standard entrepreneurial choice model with two skill groups of individuals, I argue that the decline in entrepreneurship is the equilibrium outcome of two forces that have increased the returns to high skill labor: the skill-biased technical change and the decrease in the cost of capital goods. I find that these two technological forces jointly account for three-quarters of the decline in the share of entrepreneurs observed in the United States over the last 30 years. Paper
Abstract. Using firm-level panel data from the US Census Bureau and more than forty other countries, we show that the skewness of the growth rate of employment and sales is procyclical. In particular, during recessions, they display a large left tail of negative growth rates (and during booms, a large right tail of positive growth rates). These results are robust to different selection criteria, across countries, industries, and measures. We find similar results at the industry level: industries with falling growth rates see more left-skewed growth rates of firm sales and productivity. We then build a heterogeneous-agent model in which entrepreneurs face shocks with time-varying skewness that matches the firm-level distributions we document for the United States. Our quantitative results show that a negative shock to the skewness of firms’ productivity growth (keeping the mean and variance constant) generates a significant and persistent drop in output, investment, hiring, and consumption. Paper
Are Minimum Wages and Income Taxes Complements or Substitutes? First Draft (with Shiv Dixit).
Abstract. In this paper, we document that minimum wages and income taxes are positively correlated in some U.S. states, and negatively correlated in others. This fact cannot be explained by Ramsey outcomes under complete information. However, the optimal public policy under asymmetric information can rationalize this fact. In particular, we show that the optimal minimum wage and the optimal income tax are complements in a frictionless economy. When workers privately observe their productivity, in contrast, we find that the two redistributive tools can be substitutes under plausible restrictions on the government’s auditing technology. Paper
Abstract. This paper documents that individual income volatility in the United States has declined in an almost secular fashion since 1980—a phenomenon that we call the “Great Micro Moderation.” This finding contrasts with the conventional wisdom, based on studies using survey data, that income volatility—a simple measure of uncertainty—has increased substantially during the same period. The finding of declining volatility is consistent with a handful of recent papers that use administrative data. We substantially extend the existing empirical findings of declining volatility using data from both administrative and survey-based data sets. A key contribution of our paper is to link patterns of income volatility on the worker side to outcomes (and volatility) on the firm/employer side. With the information revealed by these linkages, we investigate several potential drivers of this trend to understand if declining volatility represents a broadly positive development—declining income risk and uncertainty—or a negative one, i.e., declining business dynamism. Paper
Work in Progress
Part of the Global Income Dynamics Project, which aims to produce a harmonized cross-country database containing detailed and relevant statistics on individual- and household-level wages, earnings, and related labor market measures. The STATA code used to produce the harmonized statistics in all countries was prepared by Serdar Ozkan and myself.
Does the BIC Estimate and Forecast Better than the AIC? (with Carlos Medel). Economic Analysis Review, 2013. Paper.