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Portfolio Choices, Firm Shocks, and Uninsurable Wage Risk

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  • Andreas Fagereng
  • Luigi Guiso
  • Luigi Pistaferri

Abstract

Assessing the importance of uninsurable wage risk for individual financial choices faces two challenges. First, the identification of the marginal effect requires a measure of at least one component of risk that cannot be diversified or avoided. Moreover, measures of uninsurable wage risk must vary over time to eliminate unobserved heterogeneity. Secondly, evaluating the economic significance of risk requires knowledge of the size of all the wage risk actually faced. Existing estimates are problematic because measures of wage risk fail to satisfy the “non-avoidability” requirement. This creates a downward bias, which is at the root of the small estimated effect of wage risk on portfolio choices. To tackle this problem we match panel data of workers and firms and use the variability in the profitability of the firm that is passed over to workers to obtain a measure of uninsurable risk. Using this measure to instrument total variability in individual earnings, we find that the marginal effect of uninsurable wage risk is much larger than estimates that ignore endogeneity. We bound the economic impact of risk and find that its overall effect is contained, not because its marginal effect is small but because its size is small. And the size of uninsurable wage risk is small because firms provide substantial wage insurance.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Fagereng & Luigi Guiso & Luigi Pistaferri, 2018. "Portfolio Choices, Firm Shocks, and Uninsurable Wage Risk," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(1), pages 437-474.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:85:y:2018:i:1:p:437-474.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/restud/rdx023
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    Cited by:

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    3. Maibom, Jonas & Vejlin, Rune Majlund, 2021. "Passthrough of Firm Performance to Income and Employment Stability," IZA Discussion Papers 14131, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Hubar, Sylwia & Koulovatianos, Christos & Li, Jian, 2020. "The role of labor-income risk in household risk-taking," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 129(C).
    5. Gomes, Francisco J & Haliassos, Michael & Ramadorai, Tarun, 2020. "Household Finance," CEPR Discussion Papers 14502, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Scott L. Fulford, 2020. "Demand for emergency savings is higher for low-income households, but so is the cost of shocks," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 58(6), pages 3007-3033, June.
    7. Barney Hartman-Glaser & Hanno Lustig & Mindy Z. Xiaolan, 2016. "Capital Share Dynamics When Firms Insure Workers," NBER Working Papers 22651, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    9. Marco Di Maggio & Amir Kermani & Rodney Ramcharan & Vincent Yao & Edison Yu, 2020. "The Pass-Through of Uncertainty Shocks to Households," NBER Working Papers 27646, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Matthias Krapf, 2018. "The Joint Distribution of Wealth and Income Risk: Evidence from Bern," CESifo Working Paper Series 7130, CESifo.
    11. Chinhui Juhn & Kristin McCue & Holly Monti & Brooks Pierce, 2018. "Firm Performance and the Volatility of Worker Earnings," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(S1), pages 99-131.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Portfolio choice; Uninsurable wage risk; Background risk; Firm shocks;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • D1 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty

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