James Smith

PhD American University
December 2019
Resume/CV [pdf]

profile photo by deweytron.com

Working Paper

Shelter and The Phillips Curve [pdf] [Data and R Code ZIP file]

R Code

Discrete Cosine Transform This R code adapts a discrete cosine transformation written (in a singularly excellent paragraph) by Muller and Watson and the statistical tests they describe in their paper on Low Frequency Econometrics (August 2016, pdf link).

Research Statement

I am interested in regional variation in the macroeconomy. The middle chapter of my dissertation examines the relationship between inflation and unemployment in a panel of American cities. I found that most of the correlation with unemployment is driven by the shelter component of inflation. Regional variation in housing markets matters for the aggregate inflation process, but monetary policy is set for the entire country as a whole. This creates a tension between regions that experience higher and lower cost-of-living growth. How the economy and governments manage this tension is inherently interesting.

I am interested in categorical data (e.g. inflation expectations, labor status flows, and social network analysis). Household surveys of inflation expectations have been used to forecast inflation and to estimate Phillips curves. These surveys often use qualitative forecasts that prices will "rise", "stay the same", or "fall" where quantitative forecasts are unavailable. The first chapter of my dissertation uses the Michigan Survey of Consumers and data from European household surveys to examine categorical forecasts. I am also interested in modelling labor status flows (categorical shifts of people from employed, to unemployed,or to out-of-labor-force) as they might inform the frictional rate of unemployment. I am also working on how network topology affects a group of Ramsey-Cass-Koopmans-type consumers' plans.

I am interested in goods typologies and working on two papers on this topic. In one paper, I write about continuously variable rivalry and excludability. In public economics we are introduced to the distinct categories: public, private, club, and common goods. Buchanan and Yoon (2000) wrote a paper which turned the categorical difference between a commons and an anti-commons into a matter of degree. In the second paper, I write about goods with mixed capital and consumer qualities like houses which provide a utility bearing shelter service and a capital gain. This second paper elaborates on the work of Barsky, Kimball, and House (2007). Drafts of these papers are too early to publish on this website, but I think that clearer schema for goods are helpful.

These are the topics that I enjoy thinking about. I have also worked on research projects with topics that range from pesticide-use to the fiscal policy of southern states during the 1930s. I like working on data in R and I am open to research on a wide-ranging set of topics.


The only discovery that I can claim in the history of economic thought is that the word "externality" seems to come from the 1958 QJE article "Anatomy of a Market Failure" by Francis M. Bator. He begins the paper writing about "external economies" (as was common before 1958) and then midway through the article he starts using the word "externality". On page 358 he refers to "technological externalities". Then on page 362 "...class of externalities..." and "...let 'externality' denote any situation where some Paretian costs and benefits remain external to decentralized cost and revenue...", and in a footnote "Recall that it is the existence of such 'externality,' of residue, at the bliss-point, of Pigouvian 'uncompensated services'". Then in Section III he commits to the word externality as a synonym for external economy. I have always been struck by the weirdness of the word "externality". I think this paper, as evidence of usage in MIT around 1958, is where the word comes from.

Regarding web design: I dislike elaborate websites. My favorite website in terms of design is Cosma Shalizi's web page . I met the author of this guide to brutalist web design .