Essays on heterogeneity in macroeconomics
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My work centers on drawing economic insights about the macroeconomy based on disaggregated mechanisms and empirical patterns. In my first chapter, I study technology upgrading in the Chinese manufacturing sector and its dynamics after trade liberalization. I first document that Chinese firms often engage in capital substitution episodes, during which firm labor productivity increases, labor shares drop, and skill intensity increases. A model in which firms adopt new skill-intensive technology through investment in capital upgrading naturally rationalizes these facts, linking capital substitution events to technological change. Empirically, trade liberalization shocks reduce capital substitution at Chinese firms, raising the possibility that trade liberalization may delay short-run growth. I then build a quantitative GE model with heterogeneous firms, capital upgrading, and trade liberalization shocks. After liberalization in the model, strategically delayed capital upgrading by firms pushes technological and consumption gains further into the future, meaningfully expanding the horizon over which trade gains manifest themselves. In the second chapter, I exploit rich data on tens of millions of housing transactions from Zillow to document poor house price growth in manufacturing-heavy regions in the US. The chapter shows that manufacturing shares strongly predict dampened house price growth, mechanically contributing to a rise in housing wealth inequality across regions. However, this price growth difference is particularly strong for lower-priced houses, amplifying inequality within regions as well. Overall, I find that cross-sectional house price inequality has increased by around 10%, with around a third of this increase due to the relative decline of lower-value homes. In the third chapter, I combine empirical tools and structural modeling to measure the effect of monetary policy on consumption through housing. Exploiting quarterly US data, I estimate empirically that a 1% unexpected interest rate shock causes average house prices to drop by about 1.4% in two years. Feeding this empirical response into an incomplete markets model, I find that aggregate consumption shifts by around 0.3% in response to the shock. A lean-against-the-wind monetary policy can stabilize consumption dynamics along a transition path.