Continuous-time deterministic dynamic programming in Julia

By: Julia on Tamás K. Papp's blog

Re-posted from:

For the past few weeks I have been organizing pieces of code I have used to solve economic models into Julia packages. EconFunctions.jl is a collection of trivial functions that I noticed that I kept recoding/copy-pasting everywhere, occasionally making errors. ContinuousTransformations.jl is a library for manipulating various commonly used homeomorphisms (univariate at the moment), which are useful in functional equations or Markov Chain Monte Carlo. Finally ParametricFunctions.jl is for working with parametric function families.

In this post I use these three to solve a simple, deterministic dynamic programming model in continuous time, known as the Ramsey growth model. If you are not an economist, it is very unlikely that it will make a lot of sense. If you are a student, I added basic references at the end, which are consistent with the methods in this post.

Caveat: these libraries are in development, I am refining the API and changing things all the time. It is very likely that as time progresses, code in this post will not run without changes. In other words, treat this as a sneak peak into a library which is in development.


This is standard material, I am just repeating it so that this post is self-contained. We solve

$$\max \int_0^\infty e^{-\rho t} u(c_t) dt$$
subject to
$$\dot{k}_t = F(k_t) – c_t, k_t \ge 0 \forall t.$$

where $u( c )$ is a CRRA utility function with IES $\theta$, $F(k) = A k^\alpha – \delta k$ is a production function that accounts for depreciation. Our problem is described by the Hamilton-Jacobi-Bellman equation

$$\rho V(k) = \max_c u( c ) + (F(k)-c) V’(k)$$

Notice that once we have $V$, the first-order condition

$$u’(c(k)) = V’(k)$$

yields the policy function $c(k)$, which we are interested in. Combining the envelope condition

$$\rho V’(k) = F’(k) V’(k) + (F(k)-c) V{‘}{’}(k)$$

and using the functional form for CRRA utility, we obtain

$$\frac{c’(k)}{c(k)} (F(k)-c(k)) = \frac{1}{\theta} (F’(k)-\rho)$$

which is a recursive form of the so-called Euler equation.

Also, note that we can characterize the steady state capital and consumption by

$$k_s = \left(\frac{\delta+\rho}{A\alpha}\right)^{1/(\alpha-1)}$$


$$c_s = F(k_s)$$

Julia code: solving the Euler equation

Load the libraries (you need to clone some code, as the packages are not registered).

using ParametricFunctions       # unregistered, clone from repo
using ContinuousTransformations # unregistered, clone from repo
using EconFunctions             # unregistered, clone from repo
using Plots; gr()
using Parameters
using NLsolve

It is useful to put model parameters in a single structure.

Very simple (normalized) Ramsey model with isoelastic production
function and utility.
@with_kw immutable RamseyModel{T}
    θ::T                        # IES
    α::T                        # capital share
    A::T                        # TFP
    ρ::T                        # discount rate
    δ::T                        # depreciation

This is the key part: we code the residual for the Euler equation. The function should take the model (which contains the parameters), a function $c$ that has been constructed using a function family and a set of parameters, and a scalar $k$, at which we evaluate the residual above. Everything else can be automated very well.

Residual of the Euler equation.
function euler_residual(model::RamseyModel, c, k)
    @unpack θ, ρ, α, A, δ = model
    Fk = A*k^α - δ*k
    F′k = A*α*k^(α-1) - δ
    ck, c′k = c(ValuePartial(k))
    (c′k/ck)*(Fk-ck) - 1/θ*(F′k-ρ)

Above, c can be treated like an ordinary function, except that if you call it with ValuePartial(x), you get the value and the derivative.

The steady state will be handy:

"Return the steady state capital and consumption for the model."
function steady_state(model::RamseyModel)
    @unpack α, A, ρ, δ = model
    k = ((δ+ρ)/(A*α))^(1/(α-1))
    c = A*k^α - δ*k
    k, c

Let’s make a model object (parameters are pretty standard), and calculate the steady state:

model = RamseyModel(θ = 2.0, α = 0.3, A = 1.0, ρ = 0.02, δ = 0.05)

kₛ, cₛ = steady_state(model)

We will solve in a domain around the steady state capital.

kdom = (0.5*kₛ)..(2*kₛ)

Given the pieces above, obtaining the solution can be done very conscisely: create a residual object, which is basically a mapping from parameters to the function family to the residuals:

res = CollocationResidual(model, DomainTrans(kdom, Chebyshev(10)),

The above say that we want 10 Chebyshev polynomials, transformed to the domain kdom, to be used for constructing the $c(k)$.

We call the solver, providing an initial guess, $c(k) = k\cdot c_s/k_s$, for the policy function $c(k)$. The guess is that consumption is linear in capital, and the line goes through the steady state values. Other reasonable guesses are possible, but note that it is worthwhile thinking a bit about a good one, so that you get fast convergence.

The function below fits a parametric function from the given family to the initial guess, then solves for the residual being $0$ using NLsolve with automatic differentiation under the hood.

c_sol, o = solve_collocation(res, k->cₛ*k/kₛ; ftol=1e-10,
                             method = :newton)

Convergence statistics:

Results of Nonlinear Solver Algorithm
 * Algorithm: Newton with line-search
 * Starting Point: [1.83249,1.09949,7.10543e-16,4.44089e-16,-1.77636e-16,-8
 * Zero: [1.57794,0.433992,-0.0360164,0.00624848,-0.00134301,0.000320829,-8
 * Inf-norm of residuals: 0.000000
 * Iterations: 6
 * Convergence: true
   * |x - x'| < 0.0e+00: false
   * |f(x)| < 1.0e-10: true
 * Function Calls (f): 7
 * Jacobian Calls (df/dx): 6

Overall, pretty good, very few iterations. We plot the resulting function:

plot(c_sol, xlab = "k", ylab = "c(k)", legend = false)
scatter!([kₛ], [cₛ])

Notive how the collocation nodes are added automatically (this is done with a plot recipe). It should, of course, go thought the steady state.

It is very important to plot the residual:

plot(k->euler_residual(model, c_sol, k), linspace(kdom, 100),
     legend = false, xlab="k", ylab="Euler residual")
scatter!(zero, points(c_sol))

Note the near-equioscillation property, which you get from using Chebyshev polynomials. You get $10^{-6}$ accuracy, which is neat (but note that this is a simple textbook problem, very smooth and tractable).

Selected reading

Acemoglu, Daron. Introduction to modern economic growth. Princeton University Press, 2008. Chapter 8.

Miranda, Mario J., and Paul L. Fackler. Applied computational economics and finance. MIT press, 2004. Chapters 10 and 11.