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The nature of countercyclical income risk

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  • Fatih Guvenen
  • Serdar Ozkan
  • Jae Song

Abstract

This paper studies the nature of business cycle variation in individual earnings risk using a confidential dataset from the U.S. Social Security Administration, which contains (uncapped) earnings histories for millions of individuals. The base sample is a nationally representative panel containing 10 percent of all U.S. males from 1978 to 2010. We use these data to decompose individual earnings growth during recessions into “between-group” and “within-group” components. We begin with the behavior of within-group shocks. Contrary to past research, we do not find the variance of idiosyncratic earnings shocks to be countercyclical. Instead, it is the left-skewness of shocks that is strongly countercyclical. That is, during recessions, the upper end of the shock distribution collapses—large upward earnings movements become less likely—whereas the bottom end expands—large drops in earnings become more likely. Thus, while the dispersion of shocks does not increase, shocks become more left-skewed and, hence, risky during recessions. Second, to study between-group differences, we group individuals based on several observable characteristics at the time a recession hits. One of these characteristics—the average earnings of an individual at the beginning of a business cycle episode—proves to be an especially good predictor of fortunes during a recession: prime-age workers that enter a recession with high average earnings suffer substantially less compared with those who enter with low average earnings (which is not the case during expansions). Finally, we find that the cyclical nature of earnings risk is dramatically different for the top 1 percent compared with all other individuals—even relative to those in the top 2 to 5 percent.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 476.

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Date of creation: 2012
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:476

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Keywords: Risk ; Business cycles;

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References

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  1. Almut Balleer & Thijs van Rens, 2013. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and the Business Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(4), pages 1222-1237, October.
  2. Karen E. Dynan & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Daniel E. Sichel, 2007. "The evolution of household income volatility," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2007-61, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Constantinides, George M & Duffie, Darrell, 1996. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 219-40, April.
  4. Abraham, Katharine G & Katz, Lawrence F, 1986. "Cyclical Unemployment: Sectoral Shifts or Aggregate Disturbances?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages 507-22, June.
  5. Mankiw, N. Gregory, 1986. "The equity premium and the concentration of aggregate shocks," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 211-219, September.
  6. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2004. "Cyclical Dynamics in Idiosyncratic Labor Market Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(3), pages 695-717, June.
  7. Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2011. "Heterogeneity and tests of risk sharing," Staff Report 462, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Rui Castro & Daniele Coen-Pirani, . "Why Have Aggregate Skilled Hours," GSIA Working Papers 2006-E27, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  9. Giesecke, Matthias & Bönke, Timm & Lüthen, Holger, 2011. "The Dynamics of Earnings in Germany: Evidence from Social Security Records," Annual Conference 2011 (Frankfurt, Main): The Order of the World Economy - Lessons from the Crisis 48692, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  10. Rui Castro & Daniele Coen-Pirani, . "Why Have Aggregate Skilled Hours Become So Cyclical Since the Mid 1980s?," GSIA Working Papers 2006-E27, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  11. Sabelhaus, John & Song, Jae, 2010. "The great moderation in micro labor earnings," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(4), pages 391-403, May.
  12. Wojciech Kopczuk & Emmanuel Saez & Jae Song, 2010. "Earnings Inequality and Mobility in the United States: Evidence from Social Security Data since 1937," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 125(1), pages 91-128, February.
  13. Lilien, David M, 1982. "Sectoral Shifts and Cyclical Unemployment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(4), pages 777-93, August.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Nicholas Bloom, 2014. "Fluctuations in Uncertainty," Discussion Papers 13-033, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  2. Anderson L. Schneider & Facundo Piguillem, 2008. "Heterogeneous Labor Skills, The Median Voter and Labor Taxes," 2008 Meeting Papers 835, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Hui Chen & Michael Michaux & Nikolai Roussanov, 2013. "Houses as ATMs? Mortgage Refinancing and Macroeconomic Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 19421, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Stéphane Bonhomme & Laura Hospido, 2012. "The Cycle Of Earnings Inequality: Evidence From Spanish Social Security Data," Working Papers wp2012_1209, CEMFI.
  5. Lars Ljungvist & Thomas Sargent, 2014. "Career Length: Effects of Curvature of Earnings Profiles, Earnings Shocks, Taxes, and Social Security," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(1), pages 1-20, January.
  6. Fatih Guvenen, 2014. "Comment on "Labor Market Polarization over the Business Cycle"," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2014, Volume 29 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Kim, Seewon, 2013. "Prudent consumers: New evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 77-85.
  8. Kartik Arthreya & Juan Sanchez & Xuan Tam & Eric Young, . "Labor Market Upheaval, Default Regulation, and Consumer Debt," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Fatih Guvenen & Greg Kaplan & Jae Song, 2014. "How Risky Are Recessions for Top Earners?," NBER Working Papers 19864, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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  1. The Nature of Countercyclical Income Risk (JPE 2014) in ReplicationWiki

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