Consumption Smoothing

A topic that perhaps deserves more discussion is whether/how households are actually smoothing consumption throughout this recession, particularly where one or more household member has been laid off or had substantial reductions in salary and hours. There are many dozens of papers that one could cite in developing some ideas in this area. Two papers below have particularly interested me as I have been thinking about this. The first looks at the extent to which increased debt payments interfere with consumption smoothing. The second looks at the extent to which consumers can maintain welfare by cutting back on durable expenditure while maintaining non-durable consumption. In an optimistic version of the Irish economy, people who have been made unemployed may be able to smooth through the current period by (i) using savings (ii) using redundancy payments (iii) delaying durable expenditure (iv) using extra time available to seek lower prices (v) taking advantage of generally lower prices economy wide (vi) working with financial institutions to restructure their debt payments (vii) switching more to domestic production e.g. making sandwiches rather than buying lunch in a cafe (viii) using informal bartering as a method of acquiring services (ix) borrowing from relatives (x) social welfare (xi) income insurance (xii) charity. I am sure readers can think of many other ways in which people who have been laid off are trying to smooth consumption. We have never had high unemployment in Ireland coinciding with very high levels of personal debt and, as such, relying on previous Irish research is not likely to be very informative as to the welfare issues at stake here. The previous discussion on price indices is clearly relevant but a wider discussion of the role of formal and informal institutions in consumption smoothing in this new environment would be interesting.

Do High Debts Hinder Consumption Smoothing?

Shocks, Stocks and Socks

George Lee

I do not have any links with either Fine Gael or George Lee. I do think he merits special consideration from Economists as he is likely to be a key player in the shape of the economic policy of the current main opposition party. His maiden speech to the Dail is available on the link below. As one might expect, he seemed in command of economics in a way that will make him an interesting, though now partisan, figure in the national economic policy debate. A lot of his speech focused on the psychological and social cost of unemployment. In terms of economic policy, he argued that unemployment and private sector debt have been neglected from the debate and that he was going to contribute to correcting this. I will be watching with very strong interest as to how he follows up on this.

Link here (scroll about half way down)

Unemployment and Negative Equity

Ronan Lyon’s final post on this thread is available at this link

By necessity, there is a lot of educated guess-work in the post. For example, the working assumption in Ronan’s analysis is that recent layoffs are as likely to be homeowners as not. Nevertheless, the effects of the double-whammy of unemployment and negative equity affecting Dublin’s commuter belt is an issue that Ronan’s post usefully highlights.

Bryan Caplan’s Unemployment Wager

In response to a recent paper that was somewhat bullish about the benefits of the European employment model, Bryan Caplan proposes the following bet. It has since been taken up by John Quiggin.

“I’m going to offer the following bet to the authors of the CEPR report:

The average European unemployment rate for 2009-2018 (i.e., the next decade) will be at least 1% higher than U.S. unemployment rate. The bet will be resolved when Eurostat releases its final numbers for 2018.

I’m happy to bet each of the three authors $100 at even odds. Will they accept?

P.S. By 1% I of course meant 1 percentage-point.”

Teaching or Research?

A new NBER paper asks why universities reward faculty on the basis of research productivity despite making most of their money from teaching. One theory is that top researchers being located in an institution increases the signalling value of the degrees awarded in the Institution. Another is that screening faculty on the basis of good teaching is very difficult and that screening them on the basis of research is more feasible and that good researchers are likely to be good teachers and to transmit knowledge at a much higher level than faculty who are not research active. A question that the paper leaves open but is an important one is what is best for students and society in terms of the allocation of university budgets. Should we be focusing on getting more teaching staff and having them spend more time in the lecture hall and classroom or more on attracting top research staff to improve the prestige of institutions and facilitate students being influenced by top researchers?

link here