Stimulating discussion and critical comment on research in progress.
- WP 14-02
- Independence is the hallmark of modern central banks, but independence is a mutable and fragile concept, because the governments to whom central banks are ultimately responsible can have objectives that take precedence over price stability. This paper traces the Federal Reserve’s emergence as a modern central bank beginning with its abandonment of monetary policy for debt-management operations during the Second World War and through the controversies that led to the Treasury-Federal Reserve accord in 1951. The accord, however, did not end the Federal Reserve’s search for independence. After the accord, the Federal Reserve’s view of responsibilities "within" government led it to policies—even keel and foreign exchange operations—that complicated the System’s ability to conduct monetary policy. (PDF)
- WP 14-01
- Consumer debt played a central role in creating the U.S. housing bubble, the ensuing housing downturn, and the Great Recession, and it has been blamed as a factor in the weak subsequent recovery as well. This paper uses micro-level data to decompose consumer debt dynamics by separating the actions of consumer debt increasers and decreasers, and then further decomposing movements into percentage and size margins among the increasers and decreasers. We view such a decomposition as informative for macroeconomic models featuring a central role for consumer debt. Using this framework, we show that variations in borrowing activity among the increasers explain four times as much of the total variation in consumer debt as variations among the decreasers who are shedding debt, whether through paydowns or defaults. We also provide micro-level evidence of a sharp decline in the percentage of increasers during the financial crisis that is qualitatively consistent with a binding zero lower bound on nominal interest rates, and evidence of a cycle in the average size of debt changes among the increasers that is related to rising collateral values pre-crisis coupled with additional financial frictions after the crisis. (PDF)