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Rising inequality: transitory or permanent? New evidence from a U.S. panel of household income 1987-2006
We use a new and large panel dataset of household income to shed light on the permanent versus transitory nature of rising inequality in individual male labor earnings and in total household income, both before and after taxes, in the United States over the period 1987-2006. Due to the quality and the significant size of our dataset, we are able to conduct our analysis using rich and precisely estimated error-components models of income dynamics. Our main specification finds evidence for a quadratic heterogeneous income profiles component and a random walk component in permanent earnings, and for a moving-average component in autoregressive transitory earnings. We find that the increase in inequality over our sample period was entirely permanent for male earnings, and predominantly permanent for household income. We also show that the tax system, though reducing inequality, nonetheless did not materially affect its increasing trend. Furthermore, we compare our model-based findings against those of simpler, non-model based inequality decomposition methods. We show that the results for the trends in the evolution of the permanent and transitory variances are remarkably similar across methods, whereas the results for the shares of those variances in cross-sectional inequality differ widely. Further investigation into the sources of these differences suggests that simpler methods produce erroneous decompositions because they cannot flexibly capture the relative degree of persistence of the transitory component of income.
AUTHORS: Vidangos, Ivan; Panousi, Vasia; Heim, Bradley; DeBacker, Jason
The properties of income risk in privately held businesses
Our paper represents the first attempt in the literature to estimate the properties of business income risk from privately held businesses in the US. Using a new, large, and confidential panel of US income tax returns for the period 1987-2009, we extensively document the empirical stylized facts about the evolution of various business income risk measures over time. We find that business income is much riskier than labor income, not only because of the probability of business exit, but also because of higher income fluctuations, conditional on no exit. We show that business income is less persistent, but is also characterized by higher probabilities of extreme upward transition, compared to labor income. Furthermore, the distribution of percent changes for business income is more dispersed than that for labor income, and it also indicates that business income faces substantially higher tail risks. Our results suggest that the high-income households are more likely to bear both the big positive and the big negative business income percent changes.
AUTHORS: DeBacker, Jason; Heim, Bradley; Panousi, Vasia; Ramnath, Shanthi; Vidangos, Ivan