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Debt default and the insurance of labor income risks

  • Kartik B. Athreya
  • Xuan S. Tam
  • Eric R. Young

In this article, we evaluate in detail the role of debt forgiveness in altering the transmission of labor income risk in the absence of catastrophic out-of-pocket "expense shocks" used in the literature on consumer default. The experiments we present can be thought of as: "If we insure the out-of-pocket expenses that constitute expenditure shocks, is there still a role of debt relief as a form of insurance against 'pure labor income risk'?" We address this question by studying a range of specifications for households' attitudes toward the intra- and intertemporal properties of income risk alone. Our main finding is that, absent expense shocks, the ability to default very generally hinders the ability of households to protect themselves against labor income risk. Our findings suggest the scope of shocks that debt forgiveness is providing insurance against may be limited, perhaps principally to relatively catastrophic outcomes.

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Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond in its journal Economic Quarterly.

Volume (Year): (2012)
Issue (Month): 4Q ()
Pages: 255-307

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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedreq:y:2012:i:4q:p:255-307:n:v.98no.4
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  1. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 2004. "Recursive Macroeconomic Theory, 2nd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 026212274x, June.
  2. Fatih Karahan & Serdar Ozkan, 2009. "On the Persistence of Income Shocks over the Life Cycle: Evidence and Implications," PIER Working Paper Archive 09-045, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Mateos-Planas, Xavier & Seccia, Giulio, 2006. "Welfare implications of endogenous credit limits with bankruptcy," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 2081-2115, November.
  4. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-43, June.
  5. Francesc Obiols-Homs, 2011. "On borrowing limits and welfare," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 279-294, April.
  6. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  7. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244, March.
  8. David B. Gross & Nicholas S. Souleles, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of Personal Bankruptcy and Delinquency," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 98-28, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  9. Borys Grochulski, 2010. "Optimal Personal Bankruptcy Design under Moral Hazard," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(2), pages 350-378, April.
  10. Athreya, Kartik & Sánchez, Juan M. & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2012. "Bankruptcy and delinquency in a model of unsecured debt," Working Papers 2012-042, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, revised 30 Jan 2014.
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