IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/ucp/jlabec/doi10.1086-684121.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Decomposing Trends in Inequality in Earnings into Forecastable and Uncertain Components

Author

Listed:
  • Flávio Cunha
  • James Heckman

Abstract

A substantial empirical literature documents the rise in wage inequality in the American economy. It is silent on whether the increase in inequality is due to components of earnings that are predictable by agents or whether it is due to greater uncertainty facing them. These two sources of variability have different consequences for both aggregate and individual welfare. Using data on two cohorts of American males, we find that a large component of the rise in inequality for less skilled workers is due to uncertainty. For skilled workers, the rise is less pronounced.

Suggested Citation

  • Flávio Cunha & James Heckman, 2016. "Decomposing Trends in Inequality in Earnings into Forecastable and Uncertain Components," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 34(S2), pages 31-65.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/684121
    DOI: 10.1086/684121
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/684121
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/684121
    Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.1086/684121?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

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

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Willis, Robert J & Rosen, Sherwin, 1979. "Education and Self-Selection," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(5), pages 7-36, October.
    2. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Giovanni L. Violante, 2013. "Education Policy�and Intergenerational Transfers in Equilibrium," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1887, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James, 2008. "A New Framework For The Analysis Of Inequality," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(S2), pages 315-354, September.
    4. Pedro Carneiro & Karsten T. Hansen & James J. Heckman, 2003. "Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College," NBER Working Papers 9546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 191-261, April.
    6. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 2008. "Two Questions about European Unemployment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 76(1), pages 1-29, January.
    7. Dan Black & Natalia Kolesnikova & Lowell Taylor, 2009. "Earnings Functions When Wages and Prices Vary by Location," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(1), pages 21-47, January.
    8. Enrico Moretti, 2013. "Real Wage Inequality," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 65-103, January.
    9. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1998. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 514-550, June.
    10. Susanne M. Schennach, 2004. "Estimation of Nonlinear Models with Measurement Error," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 33-75, January.
    11. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Giovanni L. Violante, 2019. "Education Policy and Intergenerational Transfers in Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(6), pages 2569-2624.
    12. Salvador Navarro, 2011. "Using Observed Choices to Infer Agent's Information: Reconsidering the Importance of Borrowing Constraints, Uncertainty and Preferences in College Attendance," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20118, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
    13. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Carneiro, Pedro & Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 767, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    15. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555, Elsevier.
    16. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
    17. Pedro Carneiro & Karsten T. Hansen & James J. Heckman, 2003. "2001 Lawrence R. Klein Lecture Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College Choice," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 361-422, May.
    18. James J. Heckman & Paul A. LaFontaine, 2010. "The American High School Graduation Rate: Trends and Levels," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 244-262, May.
    19. Cowell, F.A., 2000. "Measurement of inequality," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 87-166, Elsevier.
    20. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Susanne M. Schennach, 2010. "Estimating the Technology of Cognitive and Noncognitive Skill Formation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(3), pages 883-931, May.
    21. Matthew T. Johnson, 2013. "Borrowing Constraints, College Enrollment, and Delayed Entry," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(4), pages 669-725.
    22. Heckman, James J. & Lochner, Lance J. & Todd, Petra E., 2006. "Earnings Functions, Rates of Return and Treatment Effects: The Mincer Equation and Beyond," Handbook of the Economics of Education, in: Erik Hanushek & F. Welch (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Education, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 7, pages 307-458, Elsevier.
    23. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
    24. Robert J Gordon, 2005. "What Caused the Decline in US Business Cycle Volatility?," RBA Annual Conference Volume (Discontinued), in: Christopher Kent & David Norman (ed.),The Changing Nature of the Business Cycle, Reserve Bank of Australia.
    25. Haider, Steven J, 2001. "Earnings Instability and Earnings Inequality of Males in the United States: 1967-1991," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(4), pages 799-836, October.
    26. Philipp Eisenhauer & James J. Heckman & Stefano Mosso, 2015. "Estimation Of Dynamic Discrete Choice Models By Maximum Likelihood And The Simulated Method Of Moments," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 56, pages 331-357, May.
    27. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1.
    28. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1998. "Consumption Inequality and Income Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 603-640.
    29. repec:mpr:mprres:7891 is not listed on IDEAS
    30. Sen, Amartya, 1997. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292975.
    31. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
    32. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
    33. Acemoglu, Daron & Autor, David, 2011. "Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 12, pages 1043-1171, Elsevier.
    34. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
    35. Keane, Michael P & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1997. "The Career Decisions of Young Men," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 473-522, June.
    36. Almlund, Mathilde & Duckworth, Angela Lee & Heckman, James & Kautz, Tim, 2011. "Personality Psychology and Economics," Handbook of the Economics of Education, in: Erik Hanushek & Stephen Machin & Ludger Woessmann (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Education, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 0, pages 1-181, Elsevier.
    37. Matzkin, Rosa L, 1992. "Nonparametric and Distribution-Free Estimation of the Binary Threshold Crossing and the Binary Choice Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(2), pages 239-270, March.
    38. Milton Friedman & Simon Kuznets, 1945. "Income from Independent Professional Practice," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie54-1.
    39. Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2004. "Income Variance Dynamics and Heterogeneity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 1-32, January.
    40. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 2009. "The Rising Instability of U.S. Earnings," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(4), pages 3-24, Fall.
    41. Abbring, Jaap H. & Heckman, James J., 2007. "Econometric Evaluation of Social Programs, Part III: Distributional Treatment Effects, Dynamic Treatment Effects, Dynamic Discrete Choice, and General Equilibrium Policy Evaluation," Handbook of Econometrics, in: J.J. Heckman & E.E. Leamer (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 6, chapter 72, Elsevier.
    42. Matthew T. Johnson, 2013. "Borrowing Constraints, College Enrollment, and Delayed Entry," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 57fc00235c3a47ff92cb253f9, Mathematica Policy Research.
    43. Heckman, James, 2013. "Sample selection bias as a specification error," Applied Econometrics, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), vol. 31(3), pages 129-137.
    44. Heckman, James J, 1976. "A Life-Cycle Model of Earnings, Learning, and Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 11-44, August.
    45. Sen, Amartya, 2000. "Social justice and the distribution of income," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 59-85, Elsevier.
    46. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling and Earnings," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 41-63, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    47. A. D. Roy, 1951. "Some Thoughts On The Distribution Of Earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 3(2), pages 135-146.
    48. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
    49. Flavin, Marjorie A, 1981. "The Adjustment of Consumption to Changing Expectations about Future Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 974-1009, October.
    50. Sims, Christopher A, 1972. "Money, Income, and Causality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 540-552, September.
    51. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
    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. Lance Lochner & Todd Stinebrickner & Utku Suleymanoglu, 2021. "Parental Support, Savings, and Student Loan Repayment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 13(1), pages 329-371, February.
    2. Ian Fillmore & Trevor Gallen, 2019. "Heterogeneity in Talent or in Tastes? Implications for Redistributive Taxation," 2019 Meeting Papers 94, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Charles M. Beach, 2016. "Changing income inequality: A distributional paradigm for Canada," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 49(4), pages 1229-1292, November.
    4. Salvador Navarro & Jin Zhou, 2017. "Identifying Agent's Information Sets: an Application to a Lifecycle Model of Schooling, Consumption, and Labor Supply," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 25, pages 58-92, April.
    5. Christian A. Stoltenberg & Swapnil Singh, 2020. "Consumption insurance with advance information," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(2), pages 671-711, May.
    6. Owen Thompson, 2021. "Human Capital and Black-White Earnings Gaps, 1996–2017," Upjohn Working Papers 21-343, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    7. Swapnil Singh & Christian A. Stoltenbergz, 2018. "How Much Do Households Really Know About Their Future Income?," Bank of Lithuania Working Paper Series 55, Bank of Lithuania.
    8. Rohde, Nicholas & Tang, Kam Ki & D’Ambrosio, Conchita & Osberg, Lars & Rao, Prasada, 2020. "Welfare-based income insecurity in the us and germany: evidence from harmonized panel data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 226-243.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J., 2007. "Identifying and Estimating the Distributions of Ex Post and Ex Ante Returns to Schooling," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 870-893, December.
    2. Cunha, Flavio & Heckman, James J., 2007. "The Evolution of Inequality, Heterogeneity and Uncertainty in Labor Earnings in the U.S. Economy," IZA Discussion Papers 3115, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Belzil, Christian, 2007. "The return to schooling in structural dynamic models: a survey," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(5), pages 1059-1105, July.
    4. Heckman, James J. & Humphries, John Eric & Veramendi, Gregory, 2016. "Dynamic treatment effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 191(2), pages 276-292.
    5. Salvador Navarro & Jin Zhou, 2017. "Identifying Agent's Information Sets: an Application to a Lifecycle Model of Schooling, Consumption, and Labor Supply," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 25, pages 58-92, April.
    6. Salvador Navarro & Jin Zhou, 2017. "Identifying Agent's Information Sets: an Application to a Lifecycle Model of Schooling, Consumption, and Labor Supply," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 25, pages 58-92, April.
    7. Salvador Navarro, 2011. "Using Observed Choices to Infer Agent's Information: Reconsidering the Importance of Borrowing Constraints, Uncertainty and Preferences in College Attendance," University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP) Working Papers 20118, University of Western Ontario, Centre for Human Capital and Productivity (CHCP).
    8. Heckman, James J. & Urzúa, Sergio, 2010. "Comparing IV with structural models: What simple IV can and cannot identify," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 156(1), pages 27-37, May.
    9. Elizabeth M. Caucutt & Lance Lochner, 2020. "Early and Late Human Capital Investments, Borrowing Constraints, and the Family," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 128(3), pages 1065-1147.
    10. Flavio Cunha & James Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating uncertainty from heterogeneity in life cycle earnings," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(2), pages 191-261, April.
    11. Heckman, James J. & Navarro, Salvador, 2007. "Dynamic discrete choice and dynamic treatment effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 136(2), pages 341-396, February.
    12. James J. Heckman, 2008. "The Principles Underlying Evaluation Estimators with an Application to Matching," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 91-92, pages 9-73.
    13. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Fang, Chichun & Gomes, Francisco, 2015. "Risks and returns to education over time," CFS Working Paper Series 512, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
    14. Carl Sanders & Christopher Taber, 2012. "Life-Cycle Wage Growth and Heterogeneous Human Capital," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 399-425, July.
    15. Anders Forslund & Oskar Nordström Stans, 2006. "Swedish Youth Labour Market Policies Revisited," Vierteljahrshefte zur Wirtschaftsforschung / Quarterly Journal of Economic Research, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 75(3), pages 168-185.
    16. Gianluca Violante & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir, 2005. "Education Decisions, Equilibrium Policies and Wages Dispersion," 2005 Meeting Papers 522, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    17. Tony Smith & M. Fatih Guvenen, 2007. "Inferring Labor Income Risk from Economic Choices: An Indirect Inference Approach," 2007 Meeting Papers 1024, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    18. James J. Heckman & Lance J. Lochner & Petra E. Todd, 2008. "Earnings Functions and Rates of Return," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-31.
    19. Lance Lochner & Youngki Shin, 2014. "Understanding Earnings Dynamics: Identifying and Estimating the Changing Roles of Unobserved Ability, Permanent and Transitory Shocks," NBER Working Papers 20068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Christiansen, Charlotte & Joensen, Juanna Schroter & Nielsen, Helena Skyt, 2007. "The risk-return trade-off in human capital investment," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(6), pages 971-986, December.

    More about this item

    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:ucp:jlabec:doi:10.1086/684121. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JOLE .

    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 bibliographic 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.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Journals Division (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JOLE .

    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.