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Household income uncertainties over three decades

  • James Feigenbaum
  • Geng Li

We study the trend in household income uncertainty using a novel approach that measures income uncertainty as the variance of forecast errors at each future horizon separately without imposing parametric restrictions on the underlying income shocks. We find that household income uncertainty has risen significantly and persistently since the early 1970s. For example, our measure of near-future uncertainty in total family non-capital income rose about 40 percent between 1971 and 2002. This rising uncertainty is likely due to the increase in variances of both persistent and transitory income shocks. Although the increase in uncertainty was widespread, the increase was most pronounced among single-earner households and high-income households. A parsimoniously calibrated Aiyagari (1994) model is solved to illustrate how rising income uncertainty affects aggregate saving.

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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 2011-25.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2011-25
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  1. James Feigenbaum, 2006. "Precautionary Saving Unfettered," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 29, Society for Computational Economics.
  2. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1997. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Research Paper 9735, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "Has The U.S. Economy Become More Stable? A Bayesian Approach Based On A Markov-Switching Model Of The Business Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(4), pages 608-616, November.
  4. 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.
  5. Feigenbaum James A. & Li Geng, 2012. "Life Cycle Dynamics of Income Uncertainty and Consumption," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-49, May.
  6. Diego A. Comin & Thomas Philippon, 2006. "The Rise in Firm-Level Volatility: Causes and Consequences," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2005, Volume 20, pages 167-228 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Fatih Guvenen & Anthony Smith, 2010. "Inferring labor income risk from economic choices: an indirect inference approach," Staff Report 450, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Michael Baker & Gary Solon, 1999. "Earnings Dynamics and Inequality among Canadian Men, 1976-1992: Evidence from Longitudinal Income Tax Records," NBER Working Papers 7370, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Dynan Karen & Elmendorf Douglas & Sichel Daniel, 2012. "The Evolution of Household Income Volatility," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-42, December.
  10. Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Consumption Over the Life Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 47-89, January.
  11. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2005. "Separating Uncertainty from Heterogeneity in Life Cycle Earnings," NBER Working Papers 11024, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Olga gorbachev, 2007. "Did Household Consumption Become More Volatile?," ESE Discussion Papers 161, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  14. Carroll, Christopher D. & Samwick, Andrew A., 1997. "The nature of precautionary wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 41-71, September.
  15. Karen E. Dynan & Douglas W. Elmendorf & Daniel E. Sichel, 2006. "Financial innovation and the Great Moderation: what do household data say?," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
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