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Labor-Market Uncertainty and Portfolio Choice Puzzles


  • Yongsung Chang

    (University of Rochester)

  • Jay H. Hong

    (Seoul National University)

  • Marios Karabarbounis

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond)


The standard theory of household-portfolio choice is hard to reconcile with the following facts: (i) Households hold a small amount of equity despite the higher average rate of return. (ii) The share of risky assets increases with the age of the household. (iii) The share of risky assets is disproportionately larger for richer households. We develop a life-cycle model with age-dependent unemployment risk and gradual learning about the income profile that can address all three puzzles. Young workers, on average asset poor, face larger labor-market uncertainty because of high unemployment risk and imperfect knowledge about their earnings ability. This labor-market uncertainty prevents them from taking too much risk in the financial market. As the labor-market uncertainty is gradually resolved over time, workers can take more financial risks.
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Suggested Citation

  • Yongsung Chang & Jay H. Hong & Marios Karabarbounis, 2014. "Labor-Market Uncertainty and Portfolio Choice Puzzles," RCER Working Papers 582, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  • Handle: RePEc:roc:rocher:582

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2007. "Asset Pricing with Idiosyncratic Risk and Overlapping Generations," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 10(4), pages 519-548, October.
    2. Luca Benzoni & Pierre Collin-Dufresne & Robert S. Goldstein, 2007. "Portfolio Choice over the Life-Cycle when the Stock and Labor Markets Are Cointegrated," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(5), pages 2123-2167, October.
    3. Francisco Gomes & Alexander Michaelides, 2005. "Optimal Life-Cycle Asset Allocation: Understanding the Empirical Evidence," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 60(2), pages 869-904, April.
    4. Mark Huggett and Greg Kaplan, 2012. "The Money Value of a Man," Working Papers gueconwpa~12-12-02, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
    5. Claudio Campanale, 2011. "Learning, Ambiguity and Life-Cycle Portfolio Allocation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 339-367, April.
    6. Robert H. Topel & Michael P. Ward, 1992. "Job Mobility and the Careers of Young Men," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 439-479.
    7. repec:pri:cepsud:238kaplan.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Sekyu Choi & Alexandre Janiak & Benjamín Villena‐Roldán, 2015. "Unemployment, Participation and Worker Flows Over the Life‐Cycle," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(589), pages 1705-1733, December.
    9. Luca Benzoni & Olena Chyruk, 2009. "Investing over the life cycle with long-run labor income risk," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q III, pages 29-43.
    10. Paul A. Samuelson, 2011. "Lifetime Portfolio Selection by Dynamic Stochastic Programming," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: THE KELLY CAPITAL GROWTH INVESTMENT CRITERION THEORY and PRACTICE, chapter 31, pages 465-472 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    11. Fatih Guvenen & Anthony A. Smith, 2014. "Inferring Labor Income Risk and Partial Insurance From Economic Choices," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 82, pages 2085-2129, November.
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    JEL classification:

    • J6 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers

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