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Inequality and the Lifecycle

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  • Greg Kaplan

    (New York University)

Abstract

This paper investigates the sources of cross-sectional differences in consumption, labor supply, wealth and welfare over the lifecycle. I document the existence of rich and informative lifecycle patterns in the joint distribution of wages, hours, consumption and wealth. I then estimate a structural model of precautionary savings with endogenous labor supply and uninsurable wage risk in an attempt to assess the ability of the standard incomplete markets model to simultaneously account for the various dimensions of lifecycle inequality. I find that in many dimensions the model provides a coherent explanation. However, the combination of certain features of the data provides an inherent challenge for this class of models. Structural estimates of parameter values are obtained using Monte-Carlo Markov Chain techniques. These are then used to decompose inequality at different points in the lifecycle into differences in preferences, differences in initial wealth endowments, differences in fixed labor productivity and the accumulated effects of shocks realized after entry to the labor market. I find that around 40% of the cross-sectional differences in lifetime welfare are due to fixed skills and around 60% are due to lifecycle productivity shocks. Differences in financial wealth endowments, however, account for almost none of the inequality in lifetime welfare.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2007 Meeting Papers with number 262.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:262

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  1. Vincenzo Quadrini & José-Víctor Ríos-Rull, 1997. "Understanding the U.S. distribution of wealth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 22-36.
  2. Susumu Imai & Michael P. Keane, 2004. "Intertemporal Labor Supply and Human Capital Accumulation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(2), pages 601-641, 05.
  3. Albert Marcet & Francesc Obiols-Homs & Philippe Weil, 2003. "Incomplete Markets, Labor Supply and Capital Accumulation," Working Papers 173, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  4. Attanasio, O. & Low, H. & Sanchez-Marcos, V., 2004. "Explaining Changes in Female Labour Supply in a Life-cycle Model," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0451, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  5. Kjetil Storesletten & Gianluca Violante & Jonathan Heathcote, 2007. "Consumption and Labor Supply with Partial Insurance: An Analytical Framework," 2007 Meeting Papers 913, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. Jonathan Heathcote, 2003. "The Macroeconomic Implications of Rising Wage Inequality in the United States," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-19, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  7. Santiago Budria Rodriguez & Javier Diaz-Gimenez & Vincenzo Quadrini & Jose-Victor Rior-Rull, 2002. "Updated facts on the U.S. distributions of earnings, income, and wealth," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Sum, pages 2-35.
  8. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-67, June.
  9. Josep Pijoan-Mas, 2004. "Precautionary Savings or Working Longer Hours?," 2004 Meeting Papers 350, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Christopher Carroll, 2005. "The Method of Endogenous Gridpoints for Solving Dynamic Stochastic Optimization Problems," Economics Working Paper Archive 520, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  11. Orazio Attanasio & Nicola Pavoni, 2008. "Risk Sharing in Private Information Models with Asset Accumulation: Explaining the Excess Smoothness of Consumption," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 103, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  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. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L, 2004. "Two Views of Inequality Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 4728, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Huggett, Mark, 1996. "Wealth distribution in life-cycle economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 469-494, December.
  15. 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.
  16. Chernozhukov, Victor & Hong, Han, 2003. "An MCMC approach to classical estimation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 293-346, August.
  17. 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.
  18. Pakes, Ariel & Pollard, David, 1989. "Simulation and the Asymptotics of Optimization Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(5), pages 1027-57, September.
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