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Skewed Idiosyncratic Income Risk over the Business Cycle: Sources and Insurance

Author

Listed:
  • Christopher Busch
  • David Domeij
  • Fatih Guvenen
  • Rocio Madera

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that idiosyncratic labor income risk becomes more left-skewed during recessions. This procyclical skewness arises from a combination of higher downside risk and lower chances of upward surprises during recessions. While this much is known, some important open questions remain. For example, how robust are these patterns across countries that differ in their institutions and policies, as well as across genders, education groups, and occupations, among others? What is the contribution of wages versus hours to procyclical skewness of earnings changes? To what extent can skewness fluctuations in individual earnings be smoothed within households or with government policies? Using panel data from the United States, Germany, Sweden, and France, we find four main results. First, the skewness of individual income growth (before-tax/transfer) is procyclical while its variance is flat and acyclical in all three countries. Second, this result holds even for full-time workers continuously employed in the same establishment, indicating that the hours margin is not the main driver; additional analyses of hours and wages confirm that both margins are important. Third, within-household smoothing does not seem effective at mitigating skewness fluctuations. Fourth, tax-and-transfer policies blunt some of the largest declines in incomes, reducing procyclical fluctuations in skewness.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Busch & David Domeij & Fatih Guvenen & Rocio Madera, 2020. "Skewed Idiosyncratic Income Risk over the Business Cycle: Sources and Insurance," Working Papers 1180, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:1180
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    1. Fuchs-Schündeln, Nicola & Krueger, Dirk & Ludwig, Alexander & Popova, Irina, 2020. "The long-term distributional and welfare effects of Covid-19 school closures," SAFE Working Paper Series 290, Leibniz Institute for Financial Research SAFE.
    2. Ursula Mello & Tomas Rodriguez Martinez, 2020. "Trade-induced Local Labor Market Shocks and Asymmetrical Labor Income Risk," Working Papers 1230, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    idiosyncratic income risk; skewness; countercyclical risk;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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