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Income Mobility and Welfare

  • Tom Krebs
  • Pravin Krishna
  • William Maloney

This paper develops a framework for the quantitative analysis of individual income dynamics, mobility and welfare. Individual income is assumed to follow a stochastic process with two (unobserved) components, an i.i.d. component representing measurement error or transitory income shocks and an AR(1) component representing persistent changes in income. We use a tractable consumption-saving model with labor income risk and incomplete markets to relate income dynamics to consumption and welfare, and derive analytical expressions for income mobility and welfare as a function of the various parameters of the underlying income process. The empirical application of our framework using data on individual incomes from Mexico provides striking results. Much of measured income mobility is driven by measurement error or transitory income shocks and therefore (almost) welfare-neutral. A smaller part of measured income mobility is due to either welfare-reducing income risk or welfare-enhancing catching-up of low-income individuals with high-income individuals, both of which have economically significant effects on social welfare. Decomposing mobility into its fundamental components is thus seen to be crucial from the standpoint of welfare evaluation.

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Paper provided by International Monetary Fund in its series IMF Working Papers with number 13/24.

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Length: 28
Date of creation: 28 Jan 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:13/24
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  1. Constantinides,George & Duffie,Darrel, 1992. "Asset pricing with heterogeneous consumers," Discussion Paper Serie A 381, University of Bonn, Germany.
  2. Tom Krebs, 2007. "Job Displacement Risk and the Cost of Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 664-686, June.
  3. Gary Fields & Paul Cichello & Samuel Freije & Marta Menéndez & David Newhouse, 2003. "For Richer or for Poorer? Evidence from Indonesia, South Africa, Spain, and Venezuela," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 67-99, April.
  4. Benabou, R. & Ok, E.A., 1998. "Social Mobility and the Demand for Redistribution: The POUM Hypothesis," Working Papers 98-23, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  5. Jose Cuesta & Hugo Ñopo & Georgina Pizzolitto, 2011. "Using Pseudo‐Panels To Measure Income Mobility In Latin America," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 57(2), pages 224-246, 06.
  6. Gallant, A. Ronald, 1975. "Seemingly unrelated nonlinear regressions," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 35-50, February.
  7. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Fields, Gary S. & Ok, Efe A., 1996. "The Meaning and Measurement of Income Mobility," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 349-377, November.
  9. Carroll, Christopher D. & Samwick, Andrew A., 1997. "The nature of precautionary wealth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 41-71, September.
  10. Baker, Michael & Solon, Gary, 1999. "Earnings Dynamics and Inequality Among Canadian Men, 1976-1992: Evidence from Longitudinal Income Tax Records," Analytical Studies Branch Research Paper Series 1999130e, Statistics Canada, Analytical Studies Branch.
  11. Antman, Francisca & McKenzie, David J., 2005. "Earnings mobility and measurement error : a pseudo-panel approach," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3745, The World Bank.
  12. Dang, Hai-Anh & Lanjouw, Peter & Luoto, Jill & McKenzie, David, 2011. "Using repeated cross-sections to explore movements in and out of poverty," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5550, The World Bank.
  13. Geweke, John & Marshall, Robert C & Zarkin, Gary A, 1986. "Mobility Indices in Continuous Time Markov Chains," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(6), pages 1407-23, November.
  14. Tom Krebs, 2004. "Welfare Cost of Business Cycles When Markets Are Incomplete," Working Papers 2004-08, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  15. Chiara Binelli & Orazio Attanasio, 2010. "Mexico in the 1990s: the Main Cross-Sectional Facts," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 238-264, January.
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