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Michael T. Owyang

Economist and Assistant Vice President
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Michael T. Owyang is an economist and assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. His research focuses on business cycles and time series econometrics. He joined the St. Louis Fed in 2000. Read more about the author and his research.

Publications & Resources

  • A Pension for Change

    Summer 2002 | Central Banker

    Defined benefit pensions fall while defined contribution plans jump.

  • A Winning Combination? Economic Theory Meets Sports

    January 2009 | Regional Economist

    Satisfying a need to get out in the field, some economists are studying sports. Their topics have included racism in the NBA, coaches’ maximization of their chances of winning, and the direction that soccer players and goalies should move during penalty kicks.

  • Ask an Economist

    July 2013 | Regional Economist

  • China's Economic Data: An Accurate Reflection, or Just Smoke and Mirrors?

    Second Quarter 2017 | Regional Economist

    Find out why accurate reporting by China on its economy is important and how doubting outsiders are stepping in with their own measurements.

  • Dealing with the Leftovers: Residual Seasonality in GDP

    Fourth Quarter 2018 | Regional Economist

    Residual seasonality in gross domestic product can make it difficult for policymakers to know whether weak first-quarter GDP growth is due to an actual downturn or a reported number that is understated.

  • Down to the Core

    Summer 2005 | Central Banker

  • Economic Forecasting: Comparing the Fed with the Private Sector

    Third Quarter 2019 | Regional Economist

    Fed forecasts have generally been more accurate than private forecasts, but the reason isn’t clear.

  • Extra Credit: The Rise of Short-term Liabilities

    Fall 2008 | Inside the Vault

    According to the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the percentage of families holding debt rose from 72.3 percent in 1989 to 76.4 percent in 2004. Among families holding debt, the median value of the debt more than doubled during that time from $22,000 to $55,300 (in 2004 dollars). These numbers reflect both a rise in collateralized debt (e.g., mortgages) and uncollateralized debt (e.g., credit cards).

  • Extra Credit: The Rise of Short-term Liabilities

    April 2008 | Regional Economist

    Not only are more American families in debt, but the median value of the debt more than doubled between 1989 and 2004. Credit cards and payday loans are two of the favorite tools for digging the hole deeper.

  • For Love or Money: Why Married Men Make More

    April 2002 | Regional Economist

    Whether it's because of employer bias or their own hard work, men who've married are paid more than those who've never said "I do."

  • Keep Your Résumé Current: The Causes Behind Declining Job Tenure

    January 2005 | Regional Economist

    Having the same job for one's entire career has become much less common over the past quarter-century.  Many people switch jobs voluntarily; others, not.  Behind this trend are changes in demographics, changes in technology and changes in such institutions as unions and international trade.

  • Low Unemployment: Old Dogs or New Tricks?

    October 2001 | Regional Economist

    Technology usually gets the credit for the unusually low unemployment of the not-too-distant past. But baby boomers, with all their years' experience, also played a role.

  • Marriage, Motherhood and Money: How Do Women's Life Decisions Influence Their Wages?

    April 2003 | Regional Economist

    Becoming a wife. Becoming a mother. Read how these critical life decisions affect the salary women take home.

  • Measuring the Effect of School Choice on Economic Outcomes

    October 2012 | Regional Economist

    In measuring the returns to education, economists usually focus on the number of years of schooling.  But many people would say that the quality of schooling matters, too, even at the high school level.  Does the type of high school attended make a difference in future income?

  • Measuring Trends in Income Inequality

    April 2016 | Regional Economist

    Before there is discussion on what can and should be done about income inequality, interested parties should understand the different methods that can be used to measure the gap. Knowing when the gap has been particularly wide or narrow over the past 50 or so years would also be helpful.

  • Monetary Policy: The Whole Country Gets the Same Treatment, but Results Vary

    January 2003 | Regional Economist

    The target set by the FOMC for the federal funds rate applies to the entire country. But that single policy has a different impact on different parts of the country, depending on their concentration of interest-sensitive industries.

  • Output and Unemployment: How Do They Relate Today?

    October 2013 | Regional Economist

    Fifty years ago, Arthur Okun examined the relationship between output growth and the unemployment rate. The empirical relationship of the resulting “Okun’s law” has remained largely intact since then, including during the Great Recession. However, while the law does fit our intuition about economic relationships, it should not necessarily be taken to be causal.

  • Regional vs. Global: How Are Countries' Business Cycles Moving Together These Days?

    April 2015 | Regional Economist

    Some countries’ business cycles are in sync with the world’s, while other countries’ cycles follow the ups and downs just of their neighbors’. This regional connection is even more prevalent if a region is defined not by geography but by common cultures and institutions.

  • Rockets and Feathers: Why Don't Gasoline Prices Always Move in Sync with Oil Prices?

    October 2014 | Regional Economist

    Given that Americans still spend a considerable portion of their budget on gasoline (just under 4 percent in 2012), it’s important to understand why gas prices don’t always move in sync with oil prices. The latter are determined in a more-or-less centralized market, but the market for gas is often local, with prices affected by location, season and taxes, among other factors.

  • So Much for That Merit Raise: The Link between Wages and Appearance

    April 2005 | Regional Economist

    If you think that your career advancement is based solely on your productivity, think again.  As hard as it may be for Horatio Alger fans to accept, workers who are taller, thinner or better looking than the rest of us can have an edge.

  • Social Changes Lead Married Women into Labor Force

    April 2006 | Regional Economist

    The ranks of women in the workfoce jumped by more than 24 percentage points between 1955 and 1999.  Credit labor-saving devices at home (such as the dishwasher), the birth-control pill and the preference by some men to marry a woman who works outside the home.

  • Splitsville: The Economics of Unilateral Divorce

    January 2008 | Regional Economist

    New studies have looked at the impact of easier divorce on everything from women working outside the home to children’s education to spousal violence.

  • Unconventional Oil Production: Stuck in a Rock and a Hard Place

    July 2010 | Regional Economist

    Oil can be derived from oil sands and oil shale, but the job is both economically and environmentally costly. How high must the price of oil be in order to make these alternatives cost-effective?

  • What's in a Name? Reconciling Conflicting Evidence on Ethnic Names

    January 2006 | Regional Economist

    One study shows that Kenya and Hakim might have more trouble getting their résumés noticed than Allison and Brad do. But another study indicates that distinctively African-American names don’t lead to worse economic outcomes in adulthood.

  • Working Hard or Hardly Working? The Evolution of Leisure in the United States

    January 2007 | Regional Economist

    Although Americans appear to be spending less time on the job than they were a hundred years ago, there's some question as to whether they have more leisure time.

  • Worth Your Weight? Re-examining the Link between Obesity and Wages

    October 2011 | Regional Economist

    Studies found the obesity wage gap holds for women not men. Should the body mass index (BMI) be used to indicate if someone is overweight?