Essays in Labor and Political Economics

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This dissertation consists of three chapters. The first chapter provides an overview of the dissertation by summarizing the two papers presented in the following chapters.

The paper in the second chapter contributes to the labor-macro literature. More specifically, I develop a general equilibrium model with labor market search and matching frictions, endogenous labor force participation and on-the-job search, which can replicate the labor market dynamics observed in the U.S. data. Most existing real business cycle models with labor market frictions assume that all agents in the economy are part of the labor force, therefore these models allow for only two possible labor market states: employment and unemployment. This is a highly problematic and unrealistic assumption. Studies that extend the basic model by incorporating being out of the labor force as a third state, through allowing for a work-home production (or leisure) decision, find that the model generates counterfactual business cycle statistics: labor force participation is very volatile, while unemployment is weakly procyclical or acyclical, and has a high positive correlation with vacancies. The failure of this three-state model to replicate the labor market dynamics observed in the U.S. data is mainly due to the excessive responsiveness of labor force participation to labor market conditions determined by aggregate shocks to productivity. In order to dampen the movements along the labor market participation margin in the simple three-state model, I introduce an on-the-job search mechanism that serves as a second margin along which the household's labor market adjustments can take place. The proposed model successfully generates countercyclical unemployment and the Beveridge Curve relationship between unemployment and vacancies. Additionally, the business cycle statistics reproduced by the modified model are quantitatively more in line with their empirical counterparts.

The third chapter presents a joint study with Mauricio Cardenas. We analyze the determinants of the government's decision to invest in fiscal state capacity, which refers to the state's power to raise tax revenue. Using a model we highlight some political and economic dimensions of this decision, and conclude that political stability, democracy, income inequality, as well as the valuation of public goods relative to private goods, are all important variables to consider. We then test the main predictions of the model using cross-country data and find that fiscal state capacity is higher in more stable and equal societies, both in economic and political terms, and in countries where the chances of fighting an external war are high, which is a proxy for the value of public goods.