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The Inequality Accelerator

Author

Listed:
  • Roberto Pancrazi

    (University of Warwick)

  • Eric Mengus

    (HEC Paris)

Abstract

We show that the transition from an economy characterized by idiosyncratic income shocks and incomplete markets a la Aiyagari (1994) to markets where state-contingent assets are available but costly (in order to purchase a contingent asset, households have to pay a fixed participation cost) leads to a large increase of wealth inequality. Using a standard calibration our model can match a Gini of 0.93 close to the level of wealth inequality observed in the US. In addition, under this level of participation costs, wealth inequality is particularly sensitive to income inequality. We label this phenomenon as the Inequality Accelerator. We demonstrate how costly access to contingent asset-markets generates these effects. The key insight stems from the non-monotonic relationship between wealth and desired degree of insurance, in an economy with participation costs. Poor borrowing constrained households remain uninsured, middle-class households are almost perfectly insured, while rich households decide to self-insure by purchasing risk-free assets. This feature of households’ risk management has crucial effects in asset prices, wealth inequality, and social mobility.

Suggested Citation

  • Roberto Pancrazi & Eric Mengus, 2016. "The Inequality Accelerator," 2016 Meeting Papers 851, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:sed016:851
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    3. Carvajal, Andrés & Polemarchakis, Herakles, 2011. "Idiosyncratic risk and financial policy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(4), pages 1569-1597, July.
    4. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-684.
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    7. Saez, Emmanuel & Zucman, Gabriel, 2014. "Wealth Inequality in the United States since 1913: Evidence from Capitalized Income Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 10227, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    11. Grande, Giuseppe & Ventura, Luigi, 2002. "Labor income and risky assets under market incompleteness: Evidence from Italian data," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(2-3), pages 597-620, March.
    12. Mark Aguiar & Mark Bils, 2015. "Has Consumption Inequality Mirrored Income Inequality?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(9), pages 2725-2756, September.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Edouard Challe & Xavier Ragot, 2013. "Precautionary Saving over the Business Cycle," Working Papers hal-00843150, HAL.
    2. repec:red:issued:16-340 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Edouard Challe & Xavier Ragot, 2016. "Precautionary Saving Over the Business Cycle," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 126(590), pages 135-164, February.
    4. Mariacristina De Nardi & Giulio Fella, 2017. "Saving and Wealth Inequality," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 26, pages 280-300, October.
    5. Villarreal, Francisco G., 2016. "Monetary policy and inequality under household heterogeneity and incomplete markets," MPRA Paper 82780, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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