Anatomy of Lifetime Earnings Inequality: Heterogeneity in Job Ladder Risk vs. Human Capital
We study the determinants of lifetime earnings (LE) inequality in the United States, for which differences in lifetime earnings growth are key. Using administrative data and focusing on the roles of job ladder dynamics and on-the-job learning, we document that 1) lower LE workers change jobs more often, mainly driven by higher nonemployment; 2) earnings growth for job stayers is similar at around 2 percent in the bottom two-thirds of the LE distribution, whereas for job switchers it rises with LE; and 3) top LE workers enjoy high earnings growth regardless of job switching. We estimate a job ...
The nature of countercyclical income risk
This paper studies the nature of business cycle variation in individual earnings risk using a confidential dataset from the U.S. Social Security Administration, which contains (uncapped) earnings histories for millions of individuals. The base sample is a nationally representative panel containing 10 percent of all U.S. males from 1978 to 2010. We use these data to decompose individual earnings growth during recessions into ?between-group? and ?within-group? components. We begin with the behavior of within-group shocks. Contrary to past research, we do not find the variance of idiosyncratic ...
Worker Betas: Five Facts about Systematic Earnings Risk
The magnitude of and heterogeneity in systematic earnings risk has important implications for various theories in macro, labor, and ?nancial economics. Using administrative data, we document how the aggregate risk exposure of individual earnings to GDP and stock returns varies across gender, age, the worker?s earnings level, and industry. Aggregate risk exposure is U-shaped with respect to the earnings level. In the middle of the earnings distribution, aggregate risk exposure is higher for males, younger workers, and those in construction and durable manufacturing. At the top of the earnings ...
What Do Data on Millions of U.S. Workers Reveal about Life-Cycle Earnings Risk?
We study the evolution of individual labor earnings over the life cycle using a large panel data set of earnings histories drawn from U.S. administrative records. Using fully nonparametric methods, our analysis reaches two broad conclusions. First, earnings shocks display substantial deviations from lognormality?the standard assumption in the incomplete markets literature. In particular, earnings shocks display strong negative skewness and extremely high kurtosis?as high as 30 compared with 3 for a Gaussian distribution. The high kurtosis implies that in a given year, most individuals ...
Firming Up Inequality
We use a massive, matched employer-employee database for the United States to analyze the contribution of firms to the rise in earnings inequality from 1978 to 2013. We ?nd that one-third of the rise in the variance of (log) earnings occurred within firms, whereas two-thirds of the rise occurred between firms. However, this rising between-firm variance is not accounted for by the firms themselves: the firm-related rise in the variance can be decomposed into two roughly equally important forces?a rise in the sorting of high-wage workers to high-wage firms and a rise in the segregation of ...
The effect of disability insurance receipt on labor supply
This paper estimates the effect of the Disability Insurance program on labor supply. We find that 30% of denied applicants and 15% of allowed applicants work several years after a disability determination decision. The earnings elasticity with respect to the after tax wage is 0.8. However, the labor supply of those over age 55, college graduates, and those with mental illness is not sensitive to allowance of benefits.
The effect of Disability Insurance receipt on labor supply: a dynamic analysis
This paper estimates the effect of Disability Insurance receipt on labor supply, accounting for the dynamic nature of the application process. Exploiting the effectively random assignment of judges to disability insurance cases, we use instrumental variables to address the fact that those allowed benefits are a selected sample. We find that benefit receipt reduces labor force participation by 26 percentage points three years after a disability determination decision when not considering the dynamic nature of the applications process. OLS estimates are similar to instrumental variables ...
The nature of countercyclical income risk
This paper studies the nature of business cycle variation in individual earnings risk using a dataset from the U.S. Social Security Administration, which contains (uncapped) earnings histories for millions of anonymous individuals. The base sample is a nationally representative panel containing 10 percent of all U.S. males from 1978 to 2010. We use these data to decompose individual earnings growth during recessions into "between-group" and "within-group" components. We begin with the behavior of within-group shocks. Contrary to past research, we do not find the variance of idiosyncratic ...
The Glass Ceiling and the Paper Floor: Gender Differences among Top Earners, 1981–2012
We analyze changes in the gender structure at the top of the earnings distribution in the United States over the last 30 years using a 10% sample of individual earnings histories from the Social Security Administration. Despite making large inroads, females still constitute a small proportion of the top percentiles: the glass ceiling, albeit a thinner one, remains. We measure the contribution of changes in labor force participation, changes in the persistence of top earnings, and changes in industry and age composition to the change in the gender composition of top earners. A large proportion ...
Bad credit, no problem? Credit and labor market consequences of bad credit reports
Credit reports are used in nearly all consumer lending decisions and, increasingly, in hiring decisions in the labor market, but the impact of a bad credit report is largely unknown. We study the effects of credit reports on financial and labor market outcomes using a difference-in-differences research design that compares changes in outcomes over time for Chapter 13 filers, whose personal bankruptcy flags are removed from credit reports after seven years, to changes for Chapter 7 filers, whose personal bankruptcy flags are removed from credit reports after ten years. Using credit bureau ...