Are Average Growth Rate and Volatility Related? 
(with Malik Shukayev) 

The empirical relationship between average growth rate and volatility of growth rates, both over time and across countries, has important policy implications, which depend critically on the sign of the relationship. Following Ramey and Ramey (1995) a wide consensus has been building that, in the post WWII data, the correlation is negative. We replicate their result and then find that it is not robust to either the definition of growth rate, or the composition of the sample. We show that the use of log difference as growth rates, as in Ramey and Ramey, creates a strong bias towards finding a negative relationship. Further, we exhaustively investigate this relationship, for various growth rates, across time, countries, within groups of countries and states in the Unites States. We use different methods and control variables for this inquiry. Our analysis suggests that there is no significant relationship between the two variables in question. However, we observe that the volatility of growth rates differs widely across countries, particularly between democratic and non-democratic countries. The latter finding is quite robust to a variety of controls, definitions of growth rates and time periods. We claim it is an important fact that existing political-economic models cannot explain.

Chatterjee and Shukayev's response to "Ramey & Ramey Response to Chatterjee-Shukayev "Are Average Growth Rate and Volatility Related?""

 

Democracy and Growth Volatility: Exploring the Links 
(with Malik Shukayev)

We study the volatility of growth rates and find that it differs systematically across countries. Our empirical investigation reveals that disparity in polity across countries is significant in explaining the difference in volatility, rather than initial income, inequality or instability of regimes, which are the commonly cited reasons in the literature. We find that less democratic countries are more volatile. To explain this observation we use a stochastic dynamic model in which democracy is parameterized by the fraction of people who benefit from being in power. The government in this model maximizes the utility of the group in power using uniform income taxes but transfers to the favored group only. When there is a bad shock in this economy, the marginal utility of agents in power is high. So, when the transfer is divided among a few, gains from increased transfer outweigh distortionary costs of higher tax. Thus, the optimal tax policy in non-democratic countries, in contrast to that in democratic countries, is such that tax rates are high when there is a bad shock and low when there is a good shock (i.e., procyclical). Further, we show that procyclical tax rates will lead to higher volatility of growth rates than under alternative tax policies. Thus, our model is successful in explaining why tax policies are pro-cyclical in some countries, a commonly observed phenomenon, in addition to providing reasons for differences in volatility of growth rates across countries.

OTHER WORKING PAPERS 

CURRENTLY WORKING ON

Evolution of the distribution of plant level productivity

(with Shweta Jain)

This paper studies the evolution of the distribution of plant level productivity in Indian manufacturing units over a long period of time, starting from 1983-84 and ending in 2012-13 using ASI data. While there are several papers that look at how the mean or the standard deviation of productivity has changed over time, we study how the whole distribution has changed over time. We find that much of the change happens at the middle of the distribution. We find that significantly large number of entries and exits happen at the middle of the distribution. Moreover, there is no significant difference in productivity of plants that enter or exit or continue operations. This is contrary to standard theory which suggests that plants with productivity below some threshold should exit while entering plants are expected to have productivity above a threshold. Further, using dynamic Olley-Pakes decomposition, we find that the contributions to the change in aggregate productivity from entry, exit and surviving plants are indistinguishable. What explains these observations? One possibility is the skill distribution of labor force – we find that the share of high skilled workers (some college or more) is low compared to those who have some schooling, but not college education. This could lead to more imitation than innovation, which in turn can explain the observations mentioned above. We build a dynamic model of entry, exit, imitation, innovation and obsolescence to demonstrate this. We also find education level data from NSSO reflects that high skilled labor, required for innovation, is much lower compared to lower skilled labor. This results in lower innovation compared to imitation.

Did Economic Reforms Affect Manufacturing Productivity in India?

(with Shweta Jain)

India has witnessed a series of policy reforms since 1991, which aimed to increase the productivity of the manufacturing sector.  Did these reforms increase productivity in manufacturing plants? We address this question using  rich data from the Annual Survey of Industries in India spanning three decades from 1983-84 to 2012-13. We focus on three reforms: delicensing, allowing foreign direct investments, and tariff reduction. We find no systematic or significant impact of the reforms on plant-level productivity in manufacturing. This result holds whether we look at the reforms individually using a difference-in-difference technique or simultaneously using fixed effects. Productivity is correlated with plant size, industry concentration, and misallocation, but we find that the reforms had no significant effect on any of these channels. This sheds light on why the economic reforms in India may have failed to impact productivity.

Optimal Taxation in a Federation and GST in India

(with Trishita Ray Barman)

Optimal tax models, starting from Ramsey (1927), are often studied using a single government. However, there are several countries which are federations and multiple level of governments have fiscal authority. In this paper we study a federation with several states and a central government. We ask what the optimal design of taxation is and find that optimally either states, or the center should impose a consumption tax, but not both. We then characterize two equilibria, one where both the central government and state governments impose tax and two, where only the center imposes tax rates. We find that in the first equilibrium, though states can potentially impose different tax rates, consumption across states are the same, as is the case in the second equilibrium. However, aggregate consumption in the country is greater in the second equilibrium, when only the center imposes tax. We then calibrate the model to Indian data and find the revenue neutral tax rates. We find that the highest revenue neutral tax rate is 20.1% and the median rate is 11.4%. Using the calibrated indirect tax rates in a regression analysis, we find that tax rates at the state level is negatively related to the growth rate of the state. So, after the implementation of GST in India, some states may see a higher level of consumption tax rate in the state and hence, a fall in growth rate.

OLDER PUBLICATIONS

A Stochastic Dynamic Model of Trade and Growth: Convergence and Diversification (with Malik Shukayev), 2012. Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, vol. 36(3), pages 315-454, March.

Note on a Positive Lower Bound of Capital in the Stochastic Growth Model (with Malik Shukayev), 2008. Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, vol. 32(7), pages 2137-2147, July.

© 2023 by Partha Chatterjee. 

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