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Insurance and Opportunities: The Welfare Implications of Rising Wage Dispersion

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  • Jonathan Heathcote

    () (Department of Economics New York University)

  • Kjetil Storesletten

Abstract

This paper analyses the welfare effects of changes in cross-sectional wage dispersion, using a class of tractable heterogeneous-agent economies. We emphasize a trade-off in the welfare calculation that arises when labour supply is endogenous. On the one hand, as wage uncertainty rises, so does the cost associated with missing insurance markets. On the other hand, greater wage inequality presents opportunities to increase aggregate productivity by concentrating market work among more productive workers. We find that the observed rise in wage dispersion in the United States over the past three decades implies a welfare loss roughly equivalent to a 2.5% decline in lifetime consumption. Assuming Cobb-Douglas preferences, this number is the result of a welfare gain of around 5% from the endogenous increase in productivity coupled with a loss of around 7.5% associated with greater volatility in consumption and leisure.
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Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten, 2005. "Insurance and Opportunities: The Welfare Implications of Rising Wage Dispersion," 2005 Meeting Papers 107, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed005:107
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Heathcote, Jonathan & Storesletten, Kjetil & Violante, Giovanni L., 2008. "Insurance and opportunities: A welfare analysis of labor market risk," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 501-525, April.
    2. Athreya, Kartik & Tam, Xuan S. & Young, Eric R., 2009. "Unsecured credit markets are not insurance markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 83-103, January.
    3. Josep Pijoan-Mas, 2006. "Precautionary Savings or Working Longer Hours?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(2), pages 326-352, April.
    4. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2014. "Consumption and Labor Supply with Partial Insurance: An Analytical Framework," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(7), pages 2075-2126, July.
    5. Corbae, Dean & D'Erasmo, Pablo & Kuruscu, Burhanettin, 2009. "Politico-economic consequences of rising wage inequality," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 43-61, January.
    6. Lagakos, David & Ordoñez, Guillermo L., 2011. "Which workers get insurance within the firm?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(6), pages 632-645.
    7. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2005. "The Research Agenda: Dirk Krueger and Fabrizio Perri on Risk Sharing across Households, Generations and Countries," EconomicDynamics Newsletter, Review of Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(2), April.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Insurance; Labor supply; Productivity; Wage dispersion; Welfare.;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making

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