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The evolution of household income volatility

Listed author(s):
  • Karen E. Dynan
  • Douglas W. Elmendorf
  • Daniel E. Sichel

Using data from the PSID, we find that household income has become noticeably more volatile during the past thirty years. We estimate that the standard deviation of percent changes in household income rose one-fourth between the early 1970s and early 2000s. This widening in the distribution of percent changes is concentrated in the tails of the distribution, and especially in the lower tail: Changes between the 25th and 75th percentiles are almost the same size now as thirty years ago, but changes at the 10th percentile look substantially more negative. The boost in volatility occurred throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, albeit not at a steady pace. Households' labor earnings and transfer payments have both become more volatile over time.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2007-61.

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Date of creation: 2007
Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2007-61
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  1. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2007. "Volatility and Dispersion in Business Growth Rates: Publicly Traded versus Privately Held Firms," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 107-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Celik Sule & Juhn Chinhui & McCue Kristin & Thompson Jesse, 2012. "Recent Trends in Earnings Volatility: Evidence from Survey and Administrative Data," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-26, June.
  3. Ziliak, James P. & Hardy, Bradley & Bollinger, Christopher, 2011. "Earnings volatility in America: Evidence from matched CPS," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 742-754.
  4. Thomas Lemieux & W. Bentley MacLeod & Daniel Parent, 2009. "Performance Pay and Wage Inequality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(1), pages 1-49.
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  6. Henry S. Farber, 2007. "Is the Company Man an Anachronism? Trends in Long Term Employment in the U.S., 1973-2006," Working Papers 1039, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  7. Henry S. Farber, 2007. "Is the Company Man an Anachronism? Trends in Long Term Employment in the U.S., 1973-20061," Working Papers 1039, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  8. 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.
  9. Holtz-Eakin, Douglas & Rosen, Harvey S & Weathers, Robert, 2000. "Horatio Alger Meets the Mobility Tables," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 243-274, June.
  10. John Bound & Alan B. Krueger, 1988. "The Extent of Measurement Error in Longitudinal Earnings Data: Do Two Wrongs Make a Right?," Working Papers 620, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. Molly Dahl & Thomas DeLeire & Jonathan A. Schwabish, 2011. "Estimates of Year-to-Year Volatility in Earnings and in Household Incomes from Administrative, Survey, and Matched Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(4), pages 750-774.
  12. Robert Moffitt & Peter Gottschalk, 2011. "Trends in the covariance structure of earnings in the U.S.: 1969–1987," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(3), pages 439-459, September.
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