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Human Capital Investment and Debt Constraints

  • David Andolfatto

    (Simon Fraser University)

  • Martin Gervais

    (University of Western Ontario)

When young individuals face binding debt constraints, their human capital investments will be insufficiently financed by private creditors. If generations overlap, then a well-designed fiscal policy may be able to improve human capital investments by replacing missing capital markets with an intergenerational transfer scheme. Boldrin and Monte (2002) demonstrate that the optimal (balanced budget) fiscal policy in this context entails the joint provision of an education subsidy for the young and a pension program for the old, financed with a tax on those in their peak earning years. We demonstrate, however, that the desirability of such a policy depends crucially on the assumption of an exogenous debt constraint. If debt constraints arise endogenously for reasons of limited commitment, then the optimal (balanced budget) fiscal policy looks radically different. Furthermore, we find that arbitrary (non-optimal) policy interventions may actually lead to lower levels of human capital investment as altered default incentives induce private creditors to contract the supply of student loans by an amount greater than the subsidy. In some cases, the constrained-optimal policy entails zero intervention. These results highlight the importance of taking seriously the reasons for why debt constraints exist, before recommending any specific policy intervention.

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File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/lab/papers/0412/0412006.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0412006.

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Length: 18 pages
Date of creation: 24 Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0412006
Note: Type of Document - pdf; pages: 18
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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  1. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 1998. "Life Cycle Schooling and Dynamic Selection Bias: Models and Evidence for Five Cohorts of American Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(2), pages 262-333, April.
  2. Card, David, 2001. "Estimating the Return to Schooling: Progress on Some Persistent Econometric Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(5), pages 1127-60, September.
  3. Timothy J Kehoe & David K Levine, 1993. "Debt Constrained Asset Markets," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1276, David K. Levine.
  4. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 1999. "Risk Sharing: Private Insurance Markets or Redistributive Taxes?," Working Papers 99-04, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  5. Alex Monge & Lance Lochner, 2000. "Endogenous Credit Constraints And Human Capital Formation," Computing in Economics and Finance 2000 318, Society for Computational Economics.
  6. Reint Gropp & John Karl Scholz & Michelle White, 1996. "Personal Bankruptcy and Credit Supply and Demand," NBER Working Papers 5653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Huggett, Mark, 1993. "The risk-free rate in heterogeneous-agent incomplete-insurance economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 17(5-6), pages 953-969.
  8. Boldrin, Michele & Montes, Ana, 2002. "The Intergenerational State: Education and Pensions," CEPR Discussion Papers 3275, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Stephen V. Cameron & James J. Heckman, 2001. "The Dynamics of Educational Attainment for Black, Hispanic, and White Males," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 455-499, June.
  10. Aiyagari, S Rao, 1994. "Uninsured Idiosyncratic Risk and Aggregate Saving," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(3), pages 659-84, August.
  11. Kehoe, Timothy J & Levine, David K, 2001. "Liquidity Constrained Markets versus Debt Constrained Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(3), pages 575-98, May.
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