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US Inequality: Debt Constraints or Incomplete Asset Markets?

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  • Cordoba, Juan Carlos

Abstract

To examine the role of debt constraints and incomplete asset markets (lack of insurance markets) in explaining U.S. inequality, we run horse races between competing models. For a widely used model, we decompose inequality into its fundamental driving forces. The underlying source of inequality in all models is uninsurable idiosyncratic risk. Both debt constraints and incomplete asset markets are needed to account for inequality, but asset market incompleteness is the key friction. It better accounts for the concentration and dispersion of wealth, and is the most costly friction in terms of welfare. Tight debt constraints are important for explaining the lower tail of the wealth distribution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 32120.

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Date of creation: 16 Nov 2010
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Publication status: Published in Journal of Monetary Economics, March 2008, vol. 55 no. 2, pp. 350-364
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:32120

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Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
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Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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References

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  2. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
  3. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "The Macroeconomic Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 681-722, 08.
  4. Nobuhiro Kiyotaki & John Moore, 1995. "Credit Cycles," NBER Working Papers 5083, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 2004. "Recursive Macroeconomic Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 026212274x, December.
  6. Mariacristina De Nardi, 2004. "Wealth Inequality and Intergenerational Links," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(3), pages 743-768.
  7. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  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. Cordoba, Juan Carlos & Verdier, Genevieve, 2010. "Inequality and Growth: Some Welfare Calculations," Staff General Research Papers 32119, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  10. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah J, 1996. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 443-87, June.
  11. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. David Domeij & Jonathan Heathcote, 2004. "On The Distributional Effects Of Reducing Capital Taxes," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 523-554, 05.
  13. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
  14. Glenn B. Canner & Arthur B. Kennickell & Charles A. Luckett, 1995. "Household sector borrowing and the burden of debt," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Apr, pages 323-338.
  15. Ana Castaneda & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Jose-Victor Rios-Rull, 2003. "Accounting for the U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(4), pages 818-857, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Tom Krebs & Moritz Kuhn & Mark L. J. Wright, 2011. "Human Capital Risk, Contract Enforcement, and the Macroeconomy," NBER Working Papers 17714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Tobias Broer, 2009. "Stationary equilibrium distributions in economies with limited commitment," Economics Working Papers ECO2009/39, European University Institute.
  3. Eva Carceles Poveda & Arpad Abraham, 2004. "Endogenous Trading Constraints with Incomplete Asset Markets," 2004 Meeting Papers 667, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Feigenbaum, James, 2011. "Precautionary saving or denied dissaving," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 1559-1572, July.
  5. Xavier Mateos-Planas & Giulio Seccia, 2013. "Consumer Default with Complete Markets: Default-based Pricing and Finite Punishment," Working Papers 711, Queen Mary, University of London, School of Economics and Finance.
  6. Vadym Lepetyuk & Christian A. Stoltenberg, 2013. "Reconciling Consumption Inequality with Income Inequality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 13-124/VI, Tinbergen Institute.
  7. Christian A. Stoltenberg & Vadym Lepetyuk, 2012. "Reconciling consumption inequality with income inequality," Working Papers. Serie AD 2012-19, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  8. Eva Carceles Poveda & Arpad Abraham, 2009. "Tax Reform with Endogenous Borrowing Limits and Incomplete Asset Markets," 2009 Meeting Papers 1196, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Sofía Bauducco & Gonzalo Castex, 2013. "The Wealth Distribution in Developing Economies: Comparing the United States to Chile," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 702, Central Bank of Chile.
  10. Broer, Tobias, 2011. "The wrong shape of insurance? What cross-sectional distributions tell us about models of consumption-smoothing," CEPR Discussion Papers 8701, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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