Lydia Cox

Working Papers

The Long-Term Impact of Steel Tariffs on U.S. Manufacturing  
  Revise and Resubmit, American Economic Review
  Media Coverage: Financial Times, Tax Foundation, Econbrowser, Noahpinion, Cato
Abstract In this paper, I study the long-term effects that temporary upstream tariffs have on downstream industries. Even temporary tariffs can have cascading effects through production networks when placed on upstream products, but to date, little is known about the long-term behavior of these spillovers. Using a novel method for mapping downstream industries to detailed steel inputs, I estimate the effect of the steel tariffs levied by President Bush in 2002-2003 on downstream industry outcomes. I find that upstream steel tariffs have highly persistent negative impacts on downstream industry exports, production, and employment. I use a simple dynamic trade model to show that relationship-specific sunk costs and uncertainty can generate persistence of the magnitude that I find in the data.

The Regressive Nature of the U.S. Tariff Code: Origins and Implications   (with Miguel Acosta)
  Conditionally Accepted, Quarterly Journal of Economics
  Media Coverage: Trade Talks Podcast
Selected Data
Abstract The U.S. tariff code has a surprising and little-known feature: Tariffs are systematically higher on lower-end versions of goods relative to their higher-end counterparts. For example, a handbag made of reptile leather has a tariff rate of 5.3 percent, while a plastic-sided handbag has a tariff rate of 16 percent. In this paper, we show that the negative correlation between unit values and tariff rates within narrowly defined goods holds across the entire U.S. tariff schedule, but is driven by consumer goods. We construct new time series of variety-level tariff rates back to 1930 to show that the negative correlation emerged during U.S. trade negotiations in the 1930s and 40s and has persisted until today. We also draw on other historical data and records to shed light on the forces that generated this regressive pattern. Despite its historical origins, the pattern is still relevant for U.S. consumers today: Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that equalizing rates on low- and high-value varieties would result in savings that disproportionately benefit lower income consumers.

Published and Forthcoming Papers

Big G   (with Gernot Muller, Ernesto Pasten, Raphael Schoenle, and Michael Weber)
  Forthcoming, Journal of Political Economy
Selected Data
Abstract "Big G" typically refers to aggregate government spending on a homogeneous good. In this paper, we open up this construct by analyzing the entire universe of procurement contracts of the U.S. federal government and establish five facts. First, government spending is granular; that is, it is concentrated in relatively few firms and sectors. Second, relative to private spending its composition is biased. Third, at the contract, firm and sectoral level moderate persistence characterizes spending. Fourth, idiosyncratic variation dominates fluctuations in spending. Last, government spending is concentrated in sectors with relatively sticky prices. Accounting for these facts within a stylized New Keynesian model offers new insights into the fiscal transmission mechanism and aligns the model predictions with the empirical evidence: Fiscal shocks hardly impact inflation, little crowding out of private expenditure occurs, markups can be either pro-cyclical or counter-cyclical, and the multiplier tends to be larger compared to a one-sector benchmark.

Policy Writing

Steel Tariffs and U.S. Jobs Revisited
(with Kadee Russ, cross-posted by PBS News Hour.)

Will Steel Tariffs put U.S. Jobs at Risk?
(with Kadee Russ, also covered by The New York Times.)

The Surprising Decline in U.S. Petroleum Consumption
(with Jason Furman, Joshua Linn, and Maurice Obstfeld.)