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Insurance and Opportunities: The Welfare Implications of Rising Wage Dispersion

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  • Heathcote, Jonathan
  • Storesletten, Kjetil
  • Violante, Giovanni L

Abstract

This paper analyses the welfare effects of changes in cross-sectional wage dispersion, using a class of tractable heterogeneous-agent economies. We emphasize a trade-off in the welfare calculation that arises when labour supply is endogenous. On the one hand, as wage uncertainty rises, so does the cost associated with missing insurance markets. On the other hand, greater wage inequality presents opportunities to increase aggregate productivity by concentrating market work among more productive workers. We find that the observed rise in wage dispersion in the United States over the past three decades implies a welfare loss roughly equivalent to a 2.5% decline in lifetime consumption. Assuming Cobb-Douglas preferences, this number is the result of a welfare gain of around 5% from the endogenous increase in productivity coupled with a loss of around 7.5% associated with greater volatility in consumption and leisure.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5200.

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Date of creation: Aug 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5200

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Keywords: insurance; labour supply; productivity; wage dispersion; welfare;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Pijoan-Mas, Josep, 2005. "Precautionary Savings or Working Longer Hours?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5322, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L., 2008. "Insurance and opportunities: A welfare analysis of labor market risk," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 501-525, April.
  3. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Consumption and Labor Supply with Partial Insurance: An Analytical Framework," NBER Working Papers 15257, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Athreya, Kartik & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2009. "Unsecured credit markets are not insurance markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-103, January.
  5. Lagakos, David & Ordoñez, Guillermo L., 2011. "Which workers get insurance within the firm?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 632-645.
  6. Corbae, Dean & D'Erasmo, Pablo & Kuruscu, Burhanettin, 2009. "Politico-economic consequences of rising wage inequality," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 43-61, January.
  7. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2005. "The Research Agenda: Dirk Krueger and Fabrizio Perri on Risk Sharing across Households, Generations and Countries," EconomicDynamics Newsletter, Review of Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(2), April.

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