This award funds research on how economic shocks move through an entire economy via network links between individual firms.

A modern economy is comprised of intricately linked production units. The structure of this production network is one of the key determinants of how shocks are transmitted throughout the economy. Understanding the structure of the production network and how it affects the propagation of economic shocks can inform government policy regarding how to prepare for and recover from adverse shocks, such as natural disasters, energy price spikes, and financial shocks such as the bankruptcy of key suppliers and customers.

The network structure of production and its effect on shock propagation has been studied in previous research, but only at the sectoral level using input-output tables. The first project will empirically characterize the inter-firm production network in the U.S., mapping the individual supplier-customer links in the production economy. The investigator develops a model of network formation to fit key facts about the network. That model is then used to simulate how shocks to individual firms propagate through the supply chain and, potentially, to the whole economy.

The second project will study intra-firm linkages between production plants owned by multi-plant firms. Understanding why firms expand into vertically related businesses can provide us with insights regarding how managerial/entrepreneurial talent diffuses through the economy, and also potentially inform policy regarding vertical acquisitions/mergers. The project uncovers and aims to explain an empirical puzzle: there are very few internal shipments between seemingly vertically related plants of multi-plant firms. This suggests vertical integration is not necessarily about facilitating the flow of physical inputs between productive units, but rather intangible inputs, such as management practices and R&D output/manufacturing know-how.

The third project in the proposal was motivated by U.S. Treasury's Auto Warranty Commitment program in 2009, which provided a government back-stop against warranties issued by GM and Chrysler. The investigator studies the linkage between the financial health of warranty-issuing durable goods manufacturers (such as auto manufacturers) and consumer expectations regarding the firm's viability. After establishing the existence and magnitude of this link in the U.S. auto industry using very detailed data on used car auctions, the potential for fundamental instabilities in the U.S. auto manufacturing sector due to multiple equilibria/bank-run type dynamics is studied through an empirically calibrated model. The model is then used to assess the effectiveness of government policies (such as warranty back-stop programs) to thwart such dynamics.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Nancy A. Lutz
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University of Chicago
United States
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