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Human Capital Investment and Debt Constraints

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  • David Andolfatto

    (Simon Fraser University)

  • Martin Gervais

    (University of Western Ontario)

Abstract

When young individuals face binding debt constraints, their human capital investments will be insufficiently financed by private creditors. If generations overlap, then a well-designed fiscal policy may be able to improve human capital investments by replacing missing capital markets with an intergenerational transfer scheme. The optimal (balanced budget) fiscal policy in this context entails the joint provision of an education subsidy for the young and a pension program for the old, financed with a tax on those in their peak earning years. We demonstrate, however, that the desirability of such a cradle-to-grave policy depends crucially on the assumption of an exogenous debt constraint. If debt constraints arise endogenously for reasons of limited commitment, then the optimal (balanced budget) fiscal policy looks radically different. Furthermore, we find that cradle-to-grave type policy interventions may actually lead to lower levels of human capital investment as altered default incentives induce private creditors to contract the supply of student loans by an amount greater than the subsidy. In some cases, the constrained-optimal policy entails zero intervention. These results highlight the importance of taking seriously the reasons for why debt constraints exist. (Copyright: Elsevier)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics in its journal Review of Economic Dynamics.

Volume (Year): 9 (2006)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 52-67

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Handle: RePEc:red:issued:v:9:y:2006:i:1:p:52-67

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Related research

Keywords: Education; Fiscal policy; Debt constraints;

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References

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  1. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 1999. "Risk Sharing: Private Insurance Markets or Redistributive Taxes?," Working Papers 99-04, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
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  4. Timothy J. Kehoe & David K. Levine, 1992. "Debt constrained asset markets," Working Papers 445, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Michele Boldrin & Ana Montes, 2004. "The intergenerational state: education and pensions," Staff Report 336, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  7. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
  8. Kehoe, Timothy J & Levine, David K, 2001. "Liquidity Constrained Markets versus Debt Constrained Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(3), pages 575-98, May.
  9. Alex Monge & Lance Lochner, 2000. "Endogenous Credit Constraints And Human Capital Formation," Computing in Economics and Finance 2000 318, Society for Computational Economics.
  10. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
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