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Abstract

This dissertation is composed of three essays that study the macroeconomic and financial causes of the Great Recession. The first chapter focuses on understanding some of the business cycle dynamics of different regions in the United States. In particular, I seek to understand what shocks and frictions are the drivers of consumption and employment differences across subnational economies, particularly states. I find that the shocks and frictions that drive the aggregate business cycle are not enough to understand regional business cycle dynamics. In this chapter I develop methodological contributions that can help researchers guide the construction of models whose goal is to understand regional business cycle dynamics and how it relates to aggregate business cycle dynamics. The second chapter focuses on understanding the link between regional and aggregate business cycles. We find that that the shocks that we can identify using cross-sectional variation are insufficient to understand the joint dynamics of prices, wages and employment at business cycle frequencies. In particular, demand shocks identified using cross-region variation are insufficient to explain the persistent decline in aggregate employment. This chapter develops methodological contributions to identify shocks in macroeconomic models and to construct regional indexes for prices and wages. The third chapter is an empirical analysis of the non-agency mortgage backed securities market, which has been at the core of the explanations of the causes of the Great Recession. By carefully studying the cash flows, returns, and how they relate to the credit ratings, we find that contrary to the conventional narrative of the crisis, AAA-rated subprime mortgage backed securities performed remarkably well. This calls into question some key aspects of the explanations that have been given as triggers of the crisis of 2008, and points at the need to better understand the forces behind this event in order to have a more accurate understanding and be able to prescribe appropriate policies.

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