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Inequality over the business cycle: Estimating income risk using micro-data on consumption

  • Giorgio Primiceri
  • Thijs van Rens

We use CEX repeated cross-section data on consumption and income, to evaluate the nature of increased income inequality in the 1980s and 90s. We decompose unexpected changes in family income into transitory and permanent, and idiosyncratic and aggregate components, and estimate the contribution of each component to total inequality. The model we use is a linearized incomplete markets model, enriched to incorporate risk-sharing while maintaining tractability. Our estimates suggest that taking risk sharing into account is important for the model fit; that the increase in inequality in the 1980s was mainly permanent; and that inequality is driven almost entirely by idiosyncratic income risk. In addition we find no evidence for cyclical behavior of consumption risk, casting doubt on Constantinides and Duffie’s (1995) explanation for the equity premium puzzle.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 943.

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Date of creation: Jul 2002
Date of revision: Oct 2004
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:943
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.econ.upf.edu/

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  1. Alon Brav & George M. Constantinides & Christopher C. Geczy, 1999. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers and Limited Participation: Empirical Evidence," CRSP working papers 505, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  2. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2000. "Consumption and Risk Sharing Over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 7995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Christopher D. Carroll, 1997. "Death to the Log-Linearized Consumption Euler Equation! (And Very Poor Health to the Second-Order Approximation)," NBER Working Papers 6298, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Orazio P. Attanasio & Tullio Jappelli, 2000. "The life cycle hypothesis and consumption inequality," IFS Working Papers W97/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  5. Deaton, A. & Paxson, C., 1993. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Papers 168, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Development Studies.
  6. Danny Quah, 1991. "The Relative Importance of Permanent and Transitory Components: Identi- fication and Some Theoretical Bounds," NBER Technical Working Papers 0106, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Dirk Kreuger & Fabrizio Perri, 2002. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory," Working Papers 02-15, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  8. Richard Blundell & Ian Preston, 1997. "Consumption, inequality and income uncertainty," IFS Working Papers W97/15, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  9. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2001. "The Empirical Importance of Precautionary Saving," CEPR Discussion Papers 2737, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Robert A. Moffitt & Peter Gottschalk, 2002. "Trends in the Transitory Variance of Earnings in the United States," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(478), pages C68-C73, March.
  11. Attanasio, Orazio & Davis, Steven J, 1996. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1227-62, December.
  12. Ramey, Garey & Ramey, Valerie A, 1995. "Cross-Country Evidence on the Link between Volatility and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1138-51, December.
  13. Cogley, Timothy, 2002. "Idiosyncratic risk and the equity premium: evidence from the consumer expenditure survey," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 309-334, March.
  14. Quah, Danny, 1990. "Permanent and Transitory Movements in Labor Income: An Explanation for "Excess Smoothness" in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 449-75, June.
  15. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "State-Space Models with Regime Switching: Classical and Gibbs-Sampling Approaches with Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262112388, June.
  16. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  17. Constantinides, George M & Duffie, Darrell, 1996. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 219-40, April.
  18. Orazio Attanasio & James Banks & Sarah Tanner, 1998. "Asset holding and consumption volatility," IFS Working Papers W98/08, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  19. Gourinchas, Pierre-Olivier & Parker, Jonathan A, 2000. "Consumption Over the Life-Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 2345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris I. Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2000. "The Welfare Cost of Business Cycles Revisited: Finite Lives and Cyclical Variation in Idiosyncratic Risk," NBER Working Papers 8040, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. R. Moffitt & P. Gottschalk, . "Trends in the covariance structure of earnings in the United States: 1969-1987," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1001-93, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  22. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 1993. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," NBER Working Papers 4249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Felix Kubler & Karl Schmedders, 2000. "Incomplete Markets, Transitory Shocks and Welfare," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2133, David K. Levine.
  24. James Banks & Richard Blundell & Agar Brugiavini, 1999. "Risk pooling, precautionary saving and consumption growth," IFS Working Papers W99/19, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  25. MaCurdy, Thomas E., 1982. "The use of time series processes to model the error structure of earnings in a longitudinal data analysis," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 83-114, January.
  26. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  27. Krueger, Dirk & Perri, Fabrizio, 2002. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality?," CEPR Discussion Papers 3583, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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