Felix Wellschmied

Associate Professor, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid


Research Statement



The Welfare Effects of Asset Means-Testing Income Support.  [download] [code]

Quantitative Economics, 2021

This paper studies the savings and employment effects of the asset means-test in US income support programs using a structural life-cycle model with productivity, disability, and unemployment risk. An asset means-test incentivizes low-income households to hold few financial assets making them vulnerable to predictable and unpredictable income changes. Moreover, it incentivizes relatively productive households that happen to have few financial assets to leave the labor force. However, it allows for relative generous transfers to households in most need. Moreover, it counteracts relatively productive households leaving the labor force after the age of 50. In terms of the welfare of an unborn household, the asset means-test that optimally trades-off these effects is $150000, and abolishing it is close to optimal.


Worker Churn in the Cross Section and Over Time: New Evidence from Germany  [download] [Appendix] [Aggregate time series] Featured on VoxEU and Ökonomenstimme

joint with Rüdiger Bachmann, Christian Bayer, Christian Merkl, Stefan Seth, and Heiko Stüber. Journal of Monetary Economics, 2021

Worker churn is procyclical in the German labor market. We study the plant-level connection of churn and employment growth using the new Administrative Wage and Labor Market Flow Panel from 1975 to 2014. Churn is V-shaped in employment growth. Through analyzing this pattern by worker skill, age, and tenure, we establish that churn is unlikely to result from plant reorganization but from uncertainty about match quality. In a dynamic labor demand framework with a time-to-hire friction, churn can be interpreted as manifestations of idiosyncratically stochastic separation shocks. These shocks become larger and more predictable during booms leading to procyclical churn.


Endogenous Hours and the Wealth of Entrepreneurs  [download] [Appendix] [code]

joint with Emircan Yurdagul. Review of Economic Dynamics, 2021

US entrepreneurs typically work long hours in their firms and these hours form a large part of the firms' labor input. This paper studies the role of endogenous owner hours in shaping the wealth distribution among entrepreneurs. We introduce owners' endogenous labor supply into a model of entrepreneurial choice and financial frictions. The model fits well the levels and the dispersion of wealth among entrepreneurs. Long owner hours incentivize poor, highly productive individuals to be owners and help the most productive owners to accumulate large quantities of wealth. On net, owners working long hours decreases the median owner wealth and increase wealth dispersion among owners. Differently, the ability to work sufficiently short hours incentivizes owners to run low productivity firms with high wealth to income ratios. Finally, alternative calibrations ignoring the endogenous labor supply of owners lead to owners that are much richer than in the data and overstate the effect of financial frictions in the economy.


Modelling Life-Cycle Earnings Risk with Positive and Negative Shocks  [download] [Appendix] [Data moments]

joint with Manuel Sanchez. Review of Economic Dynamics, 2020

We estimate explicit age-varying distributions of idiosyncratic persistent and transitory earnings shocks over workers' life-cycles using a German administrative data set. Large positive shocks, both transitory and persistent, are characteristic for the first eight years of the working life. After the age of 50, large negative shocks become a major source of earnings risk. Between the ages of 30 and 50, most shocks are small and transitory. Large persistent positive shocks that occur early in the working life help to rationalize large wealth and consumption shares of the top one percent in an incomplete markets model.


Quantifying the Contribution of Search to Wage Inequality  [download] [Appendix] [code]

joint with Volker Tjaden. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 2014

We empirically establish that one third of job transitions lead to wage losses. Using a quantitative on the job search model we find that 60 percent of them are movements down the job ladder. Accounting for them, our baseline calibration matches the large residual wage inequality in US data while attributing only 13.7 percent of overall wage inequality to the presence of search frictions in the labor market. We can trace the difference between ours and previous much higher estimates to our explicit modeling of non-value improving job to job transitions.


Working Papers:

Wage Risk, Employment Risk, and the Rise in Wage Inequality  [download] [Appendix] [code]

joint with Ariel Mecikovsky. Revision requested by the International Economic Review

Using a structural labor market model, we estimate for most US male workers an increase in the dispersion of idiosyncratic productivity shocks and an increase in the heterogeneity in pay across offered jobs between 1983--2013. These changes explain most of the increase in residual wage inequality and, depending on education, between 18 and 32 percent of the decreases in the aggregate employment and labor force participation rates. The higher uncertainty reduces the welfare of workers, and this effect is strongest for those with little education. Expanding the welfare state as a response to increasing uncertainty fails to increase workers' welfare.


Public-Sector Employment over the Life-Cycle  [download]

joint with Pedro Gomes.

The size of the public sector in terms of employment and the compensation it pays to its workers have a strong life-cycle dimension in the United States, United Kingdom, France and Spain. We establish a quantitative partial-equilibrium life-cycle model with incomplete markets, with a private and public sectors and risk-averse workers. We analyse the role of public-sector employment in shaping workers labour market outcomes over their life cycle, both in terms of employment choice and savings. We use the model to: (i) calculate the public-sector wage, pension, and job-security premia, and (ii) quantify the effects of harmonizing the public and private sector. We find that the job-security and pension's premia are important forms of compensation to public-sector workers, and are valued differently over the life cycle. Harmonizing the characteristic of the public-sector employment, with those of the private, would lower unemployment rate and reduce government costs.


Monopsony Makes Firms not only Small but also Unproductive: Why East Germany has not Converged  [download] Featured on VoxEU and Ökonomenstimme

joint with Rüdiger Bachmann, Christian Bayer, and Heiko Stüber.

When employers face a trade-off between being large and paying low wages---and in this sense have monopsony power--- some productive employers decide to acquire few customers, forgo sales, and remain small. These decisions have adverse consequences for aggregate labor productivity. Using high-quality administrative data from Germany, we document that East German plants (compared to West German ones) face steeper size-wage curves, invest less into marketing, remain smaller, and are less productive. A model with labor market monopsony, product market power, and customer acquisition matching these features of the data predicts ten percent lower aggregate labor productivity in East Germany.


Geographic Mobility over the Life-Cycle  [download]

joint with Antonia Díaz and Álvaro Jañez.

When mobility between locations is frictional, a person's economic well-being is partially determined by her place of birth. Using a life cycle model of mobility, we find that search frictions are the main impairment to the mobility of young people in Spain, and these frictions are particularly strong in economically distressed locations. As a result, being born in a high-unemployment urban area carries with it a large welfare penalty. Less stable jobs, slower skill accumulation, lower average wages, and fewer possibilities for geographic mobility all contribute to these welfare losses. Paying transfers to people in distressed economic locations decreases these welfare losses without large adverse effects on mobility. In contrast, policies that encourage people to move to low-unemployment urban areas increase these welfare losses and fail to meaningfully increase mobility towards these more successful locations.


Labor Reallocation Effects of Furlough Schemes: Evidence from Two Recessions in Spain  [download]

joint with Antonia Díaz, Juan Dolado, and Álvaro Jañez. Revision requested by the European Economic Review

This paper analyzes the role of furlough schemes when aggregate risk has a sector-specific component. In particular, our focus lies on the different responses of the Spanish labor market to the Great Recession and the recent pandemic crisis since both downturns have been driven by such a type of shocks. However, the pandemic episode involves much less job destruction than the previous recession, following firms' widespread use of furlough schemes (ERTEs, by their Spanish acronym) which were hardly used before. A favorable effect of these policies is that they stabilize unemployment rates by allowing workers to remain matched with their employers in the most affected sectors. However, under their current design, it is argued that ERTEs crowd out labor hoarding exerted by employers in the absence of those schemes, as well as increase the volatility of working rates and output. In particular, we show, both theoretically and empirically, that ERTEs slow down worker reallocation away from declining sectors to other sectors not affected by those shocks.


Work in progress:

Plant Age, Uncertain Match Quality, and Churning


Between Household Transfers in Mexico


Temporary Work Contracts in Spain