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Sticky Capital Controls

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  • Miguel Acosta-Henao
  • Laura Alfaro
  • Andrés Fernández

Abstract

There is much ongoing debate on the merits of capital controls as effective policy instruments. The differing perspectives are due in part to a lack of empirical studies that look at the intensive margin of controls, which in turn has prevented a quantitative assessment of optimal capital control models against the data. We contribute to this debate by addressing both positive and normative features of capital controls. On the positive side, we build a new dataset using textual analysis, from which we document a set of stylized facts of capital controls along their intensive and extensive margins for 21 emerging markets. We document that capital controls are “sticky”; that is, changes to capital controls do not occur frequently, and when they do, they remain in place for a long time. Overall, they have not been used systematically across countries or time, and there has been considerable heterogeneity across countries in terms of the intensity with which they have been used. On the normative side, we extend a model of capital controls relying on pecuniary externalities augmented by including an (S; s) cost of implementing such policies. We illustrate how this friction goes a long way toward bringing the model closer to the data. When the extended model is calibrated for each of the countries in the new dataset, we find that the size of these costs is large, thus substantially reducing the welfare-enhancing effects of capital controls compared with the frictionless Ramsey benchmark. We conclude with a discussion of the structural interpretations of such costs, which calls for a richer set of policy constraints when considering the use of capital controls in models of pecuniary externalities.

Suggested Citation

  • Miguel Acosta-Henao & Laura Alfaro & Andrés Fernández, 2020. "Sticky Capital Controls," NBER Working Papers 26997, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26997
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • F38 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Financial Policy: Financial Transactions Tax; Capital Controls
    • F41 - International Economics - - Macroeconomic Aspects of International Trade and Finance - - - Open Economy Macroeconomics
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises

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