IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/spr/joecth/v60y2015i2p345-370.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Fearing the worst: the importance of uncertainty for inequality

Author

Listed:
  • Keith Blackburn

    ()

  • David Chivers

    ()

Abstract

We present an overlapping generations model in which aspirational agents face uncertainty about the returns to human capital investment. This uncertainty implies the prospect that aspirations will not be fulfilled, the probability of which is greater the lower is the human capital endowment of an agent. We show that agents with sufficiently low human capital endowments may experience such a strong influence of loss aversion that they abstain from human capital investment. We further show how this behaviour may be transmitted through successive generations to cause initial inequalities to persist. These results do not rely on any credit market imperfections, though they may appear as if they do. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Suggested Citation

  • Keith Blackburn & David Chivers, 2015. "Fearing the worst: the importance of uncertainty for inequality," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 60(2), pages 345-370, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:joecth:v:60:y:2015:i:2:p:345-370
    DOI: 10.1007/s00199-015-0876-9
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00199-015-0876-9
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Mezias, Stephen J., 1988. "Aspiration level effects: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 389-400, December.
    2. Roberto Perotti, 1993. "Political Equilibrium, Income Distribution, and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(4), pages 755-776.
    3. Rosenblatt-Wisch, Rina, 2008. "Loss aversion in aggregate macroeconomic time series," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1140-1159, October.
    4. Luigi Guiso & Monica Paiella, 2008. "Risk Aversion, Wealth, and Background Risk," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(6), pages 1109-1150, December.
    5. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio & Terlizzese, Daniele, 1996. "Income Risk, Borrowing Constraints, and Portfolio Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 158-172, March.
    6. Alberto Alesina & Dani Rodrik, 1994. "Distributive Politics and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(2), pages 465-490.
    7. Keith Blackburn & Dimitrios Varvarigos, 2008. "Human capital accumulation and output growth in a stochastic environment," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 36(3), pages 435-452, September.
    8. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
    9. Ulrich Schmidt & Horst Zank, 2005. "What is Loss Aversion?," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 157-167, January.
    10. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
    11. Carroll, Christopher D & Kimball, Miles S, 1996. "On the Concavity of the Consumption Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(4), pages 981-992, July.
    12. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Henry E. Siu, 2005. "Fluctuations in Convex Models of Endogenous Growth II: Business Cycle Properties," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 8(4), pages 805-828, October.
    13. Foellmi, Reto & Rosenblatt-Wisch, Rina & Schenk-Hoppé, Klaus Reiner, 2011. "Consumption paths under prospect utility in an optimal growth model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 273-281, March.
    14. Durlauf, S.N., 1993. "Neighborhood Feedbacks, Endogenous Stratification, and Income Inequality," Working papers 9328, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    15. Philippe Aghion & Patrick Bolton, 1997. "A Theory of Trickle-Down Growth and Development," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 151-172.
    16. Blackburn, Keith & Bose, Niloy, 2003. "A model of trickle-down through learning," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 445-466, January.
    17. Oded Galor & Joseph Zeira, 1993. "Income Distribution and Macroeconomics," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52.
    18. Thomas Piketty, 1997. "The Dynamics of the Wealth Distribution and the Interest Rate with Credit Rationing," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(2), pages 173-189.
    19. Douglas W. Diamond, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414.
    20. Matthew Rabin & Richard H. Thaler, 2001. "Anomalies: Risk Aversion," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(1), pages 219-232, Winter.
    21. Chris Starmer, 2000. "Developments in Non-expected Utility Theory: The Hunt for a Descriptive Theory of Choice under Risk," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(2), pages 332-382, June.
    22. Thomas Langer & Martin Weber, 2001. "Prospect Theory, Mental Accounting, and Differences in Aggregated and Segregated Evaluation of Lottery Portfolios," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 47(5), pages 716-733, May.
    23. Christopher D. Carroll, 2001. "A Theory of the Consumption Function, with and without Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(3), pages 23-45, Summer.
    24. Enrico Diecidue & Jeroen van de Ven, 2008. "Aspiration Level, Probability Of Success And Failure, And Expected Utility," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 49(2), pages 683-700, May.
    25. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    26. Raquel Fernandez & Richard Rogerson, 1996. "Income Distribution, Communities, and the Quality of Public Education," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(1), pages 135-164.
    27. Tom Krebs, 2003. "Human Capital Risk and Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(2), pages 709-744.
    28. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Henry E. Siu & Ennio Stacchetti, 2005. "Fluctuations in Convex Models of Endogenous Growth I: Growth Effects," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 8(4), pages 780-804, October.
    29. Persson, Torsten & Tabellini, Guido, 1994. "Is Inequality Harmful for Growth?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 600-621, June.
    30. de Hek, Paul A, 1999. "On Endogenous Growth under Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 40(3), pages 727-744, August.
    31. Stefan Krasa & Anne P. Villamil, 2000. "Optimal Contracts when Enforcement Is a Decision Variable," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(1), pages 119-134, January.
    32. Holthausen, Duncan M, 1981. "A Risk-Return Model with Risk and Return Measured as Deviations from a Target Return," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(1), pages 182-188, March.
    33. Townsend, Robert M., 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
    34. John Payne, 2005. "It is Whether You Win or Lose: The Importance of the Overall Probabilities of Winning or Losing in Risky Choice," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 5-19, January.
    35. Douglas Gale & Martin Hellwig, 1985. "Incentive-Compatible Debt Contracts: The One-Period Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(4), pages 647-663.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:etbull:v:5:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s40505-017-0116-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:jeborg:v:143:y:2017:i:c:p:116-132 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Chivers, David, 2017. "Success, survive or escape? Aspirations and poverty traps," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 143(C), pages 116-132.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Inequality; Uncertainty; Aspirations; Loss aversion; D31; D81; E24;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:joecth:v:60:y:2015:i:2:p:345-370. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://www.springer.com .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.