Ying Feng |冯颖

ecsfy [at] nus [dot] edu.sg

Welcome to my website. I am currently an Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore. I received my Ph.D. degree in economics from the University of California San Diego in 2019. My research interests are in macroeconomics, growth and development.


Working Papers

  • Abstract: Financial frictions adversely affect productivity by discouraging entrepreneurship, which is often measured by the self-employed. We argue that it is essential to divide the self-employed into employers and own-account workers (self-employed without employees) when studying this question. Using micro data for 77 countries from all income levels, we show that employers' labor shares are increasing with GDP per capita, whereas own-account employment is decreasing. We also find an almost universally negative selection on education into own-account status relative to wage workers and positive selection into employers. To quantitatively match these facts, we build an occupational choice model with cross-country differences in financial development and skill-biased productivity levels. Our model predicts an average of 19% output gains in low-income countries from removing financial frictions. In contrast, an alternative model with skill-neutral technological change cannot match the high own-account employment share in low-income countries, thus overestimating the output gains by 13 percentage points.

  • Abstract: Dispersion in marginal revenue products of capital (MRPK) across firms may lower aggregate productivity through misallocation. Using firm-level panel data from China, I document that MRPK dispersion decreases substantially with firm age, particularly before age five. Building on this novel fact, I propose a new interpretation of MRPK dispersion as resulting from firm life-cycle learning. To formalize this idea, I develop a quantitative model in which firms learn about their fundamental productivity as they age in a frictional market with endogenous exits. I find that omitting learning can lead to 73% overestimation of TFP losses from distortions correlated with productivity.

[press coverage: VoxDev]

  • Abstract: This paper draws on household survey data from countries of all income levels to measure how average unemployment rates vary with income per capita. We document that unemployment is increasing with GDP per capita. This fact is accounted for almost entirely by low-educated workers, whose unemployment rates are strongly increasing in GDP per capita, rather than by high-educated workers, whose unemployment rates are not correlated with income. We interpret these facts in a model with frictional labor markets, a traditional self-employment sector and skill-biased productivity differences across countries. A calibrated version of the model explains around two-thirds of the cross-country patterns we document. We conclude that unemployment is largely a consequence of development rather than a source of low income per capita levels.

  • Abstract: One of the leading theories of entrepreneurship is that less risk averse individuals become entrepreneurs and more risk averse individuals become their employees. Kihlstrom and Laffont (1979) formalized this insight in an elegant and widely taught general equilibrium model. However, their model has not been further developed. A reason may be that their main comparative static result, that an economy-wide increase in risk aversion lowers the equilibrium wage, appeared to require the assumption that all agents had identical risk aversion index, throwing out their motivating insight and indicating that the model is intractable. In this note we prove this comparative static result on risk aversion and wages in general equilibrium, retaining agent heterogeneity in risk aversion and the endogenous division of agents into less risk averse entrepreneurs and more risk averse workers, without adding any assumptions not already in the original paper. Besides the intrinsic value of the result, we hope to increase the usefulness of the Kihlstrom and Laffont (1979) model for other researchers and to facilitate improvement in its exposition for the many graduate courses in which it is taught.

Selected Work in Progress

Trends in Assortative Mating from 1960 to 2010: Copula Based Measurements, with Paul Jackson and Juwon Seo