Essays on Public Macroeconomic Policy

University dissertation from Institute for International Economic Studies

Abstract: The thesis consists of three self-contained essays on public policy in the macroeconomy.“Government Policy in the Formal and Informal Sectors” quantitatively investigates the interaction between the firms' choice to operate in the formal or the informal sector and government policy on taxation and enforcement. Taxes, enforcement, and regulation are incorporated in a general equilibrium model of firms differing in their productivities. The model quantitatively accounts for the keys aspects in the data and allows me to back out country-specific enforcement levels. Some policy reforms are analyzed and the welfare gains can be fairly large.“Determinants of Capital Intensive and R&D Intensive Foreign Direct Investment” studies the determinants of capital intensity and technology content of FDI. Using industry data on U.S. FDI abroad and data on many different host countries' institutional characteristics, we show that there is a differential response of FDI flows to investment climate according to the capital intensity of the industries receiving the investments. We find that better protection of property rights has a significant positive effect on R&D intensive capital flows. We find evidence that an increase in workers' bargaining power results in a reduction of both kinds of FDI.“Ambiguity Aversion, the Equity Premium, and the Welfare Costs of Business Cycles” examines the relevance of consumers’ ambiguity aversion for asset prices and how consumption fluctuations influence consumer welfare. First, in a Mehra-Prescott-style endowment economy, we calibrate ambiguity aversion so that asset prices are consistent with data: a high return on equity and a low return on risk-free bonds. We then use this calibration to investigate how much consumers would be willing to pay to reduce endowment fluctuations to zero, thus delivering a Lucas-style welfare cost of fluctuations. These costs turn out to be very large: consumers are willing to pay over 10% of consumption in permanent terms.