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Inequality and the Lifecycle


  • Greg Kaplan

    (New York University)


This paper investigates the sources of cross-sectional differences in consumption, labor supply, wealth and welfare over the lifecycle. I document the existence of rich and informative lifecycle patterns in the joint distribution of wages, hours, consumption and wealth. I then estimate a structural model of precautionary savings with endogenous labor supply and uninsurable wage risk in an attempt to assess the ability of the standard incomplete markets model to simultaneously account for the various dimensions of lifecycle inequality. I find that in many dimensions the model provides a coherent explanation. However, the combination of certain features of the data provides an inherent challenge for this class of models. Structural estimates of parameter values are obtained using Monte-Carlo Markov Chain techniques. These are then used to decompose inequality at different points in the lifecycle into differences in preferences, differences in initial wealth endowments, differences in fixed labor productivity and the accumulated effects of shocks realized after entry to the labor market. I find that around 40% of the cross-sectional differences in lifetime welfare are due to fixed skills and around 60% are due to lifecycle productivity shocks. Differences in financial wealth endowments, however, account for almost none of the inequality in lifetime welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Greg Kaplan, 2007. "Inequality and the Lifecycle," 2007 Meeting Papers 262, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed007:262

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mark Huggett & Juan Carlos Parra, 2010. "How Well Does the U.S. Social Insurance System Provide Social Insurance?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(1), pages 76-112, February.
    2. Kaplan, Greg & Menzio, Guido & Rudanko, Leena & Trachter, Nicholas, 2016. "Relative Price Dispersion: Evidence and Theory," Working Paper 16-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    3. Ofer Setty: Tel Aviv University, 2011. "Unemployment Accounts," 2011 Meeting Papers 204, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Pedro Cavalcanti Ferreira & Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos, 2013. "The Effect of Social Security, Health, Demography and Technology on Retirement," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(2), pages 350-370, April.
    5. Alejandro Badel & Mark Huggett, 2014. "Interpreting Life Cycle Inequality Patterns as an Efficient Allocation: Mission Impossible?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 17(4), pages 613-629, October.
    6. Arslan, Yavuz & Taskin, Temel, 2011. "Price search, consumption inequality, and expenditure inequality over the life cycle," MPRA Paper 34874, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Hanming Fang & Naoki Aizawa, 2012. "Equilibrium Labor Market Search and Health Insurance Reform," 2012 Meeting Papers 959, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Gianluca Violante, 2013. "Education policy and intergenerational transfers in equilibrium," IFS Working Papers W13/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    9. Svetlana Pashchenko & Ponpoje (Poe) Porapakkarm & Mariacristina De Nardi, 2017. "The Lifetime Costs of Bad Health," 2017 Meeting Papers 533, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Bick, Alexander & Choi, Sekyu, 2013. "Revisiting the effect of household size on consumption over the life-cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2998-3011.
    11. Richard Blundell & Ben Etheridge, 2010. "Consumption, Income and Earnings Inequality in Britain," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 76-102, January.
    12. Andrés Erosa & Luisa Fuster & Gueorgui Kambourov, 2016. "Towards a Micro-Founded Theory of Aggregate Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 83(3), pages 1001-1039.
    13. Jonathan Heathcote & Fabrizio Perri & Giovanni L. Violante, 2010. "Unequal We Stand: An Empirical Analysis of Economic Inequality in the United States: 1967-2006," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(1), pages 15-51, January.
    14. Fatih Karahan & Serdar Ozkan, 2013. "On the Persistence of Income Shocks over the Life Cycle: Evidence, Theory, and Implications," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 16(3), pages 452-476, July.
    15. Jose Mustre-del-Rio, 2015. "Wealth and Labor Supply Heterogeneity," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 18(3), pages 619-634, July.
    16. Gianluca Violante & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir, 2005. "Education Decisions, Equilibrium Policies and Wages Dispersion," 2005 Meeting Papers 522, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    17. Mark Huggett (Georgetown University) and Juan Carlos Parra (Georgetown University), 2005. "Quantifying the Inefficiency of the US Social Insurance System," Working Papers gueconwpa~05-05-16, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    18. repec:fip:fedreq:y:2011:i:3q:p:255-326:n:vol.97no.3 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Blundell, Richard & Graber, Michael & Mogstad, Magne, 2015. "Labor income dynamics and the insurance from taxes, transfers, and the family," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 58-73.
    20. Rong Hai, 2013. "The Determinants of Rising Inequality in Health Insurance and Wages: An Equilibrium Model of Workers' Compensation and Health Care Policies," PIER Working Paper Archive 13-019, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    21. Lopez-Daneri, Martin, 2016. "NIT picking: The macroeconomic effects of a Negative Income Tax," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 1-16.
    22. Monisankar Bishnu & Nick L. Guo & Cagri S Kumru, 2017. "Social Security: Progressive Benefits but Regressive Outcome?," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2017-656, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
    23. Cagri S. Kumru & John Piggott & Athanasios C. Thanopoulos, 2015. "A Note on Resource Testing and Temptation," Working Papers wp340, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply


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