How Should Tax Progressivity Respond to Rising Income Inequality?
We address this question in a heterogeneous-agent incomplete-markets model featuring exogenous idiosyncratic risk, endogenous skill investment, and flexible labor supply. The tax and transfer schedule is restricted to be log-linear in income, a good description of the US system. Rising inequality is modeled as a combination of skill-biased technical change and growth in residual wage dispersion. When facing shifts in the income distribution like those observed in the US, a utilitarian planner chooses higher progressivity in response to larger residual inequality but lower progressivity in ...
Insurance and Inequality with Persistent Private Information
This paper studies the optimal tradeoff between insurance and inequality in economies with persistent private information.We consider a principal-agent model in which the principal insures the agent against privately-observed shocks to his endowment, which follows an ergodic finite-state Markov chain that may exhibit arbitrary serial correlation. The optimal contract always induces immiseration: the agent’s consumption and utility become arbitrarily negative in the long run. When the endowment is positively serially correlated, the optimal contract provides increasingly high-powered ...
Optimal Progressivity with Age-Dependent Taxation
This paper studies optimal taxation of labor earnings when the degree of tax progressivity is allowed to vary with age. We analyze this question in a tractable equilibrium overlapping-generations model that incorporates a number of salient trade-offs in tax design. Tax progressivity provides insurance against ex-ante heterogeneity and earnings uncertainty that missing markets fail to deliver. However, taxes distort labor supply and human capital investments. Uninsurable risk cumulates over the life cycle, and thus the welfare gains from income compression via progressive taxation increase ...
Optimal Tax Progressivity: An Analytical Framework
What shapes the optimal degree of progressivity of the tax and transfer system? On the one hand, a progressive tax system can counteract inequality in initial conditions and substitute for imperfect private insurance against idiosyncratic earnings risk. At the same time, progressivity reduces incentives to work and to invest in skills, and aggravates the externality associated with valued public expenditures. We develop a tractable equilibrium model that features all of these trade-offs. The analytical expressions we derive for social welfare deliver a transparent understanding of how ...
Inflation at the Household Level: Web Appendix
This appendix contains additional results on using scanner data to estimate inflation rates at the household level. There are three sections. Section 1 shows cross-sectional distributions of Fisher and Paasche inflation rates. Section 2 shows the evolution over time of measures of dispersion of Fisher and Paasche inflation rates. Section 3 shows cross-sectional distributions of two-year inflation rates measured with Fisher and Paasche indexes.
Wealth Distribution and Retirement Preparation Among Early Savers
This paper develops a new combined wealth measure using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, by augmenting data on net worth with estimates of defined benefit (DB) pension wealth and expected Social Security wealth. We use this combined wealth concept to explore retirement preparation among groups of households in their pre-retirement years (40-49 and 50-59) and also to explore the concentration of wealth. We find evidence of moderate, but rising, shortfalls in retirement preparation. We also show that including DB pension and Social Security wealth results in markedly lower measures of ...
Enduring Relationships in an Economy with Capital and Private Information
We study efficient risk sharing in a model where agents operate linear production technologies with private information about idiosyncratic productivity. Capital is the sole factor of production, and accumulable. We establish a time-invariant, one-to-one mapping between the capital allocated to an agent and his lifetime utility entitlement. The mapping implies properties that are distinct from those in models with private information about endowments. In contrast to the latter, the value of the risk-sharing arrangement in our model always remains above the autarky value. There is no need for ...
The Heterogeneous Effects of Government Spending : It’s All About Taxes
This paper investigates how government spending multipliers depend on the distribution of taxes across households. We exploit historical variations in the financing of spending in the U.S. since 1913 to show that multipliers are positive only when financed with more progressive taxes, and zero otherwise. We rationalize this finding within a heterogeneous-household model with indivisible labor supply. The model results in a lower labor responsiveness to tax changes for higher-income earners. In turn, spending financed with more progressive taxes induces a smaller crowding-out, and thus larger ...
Inflation at the Household Level
We use scanner data to estimate inflation rates at the household level. Households' inflation rates are remarkably heterogeneous, with an interquartile range of 6.2 to 9.0 percentage points on an annual basis. Most of the heterogeneity comes not from variation in broadly defined consumption bundles but from variation in prices paid for the same types of goods - a source of variation that previous research has not measured. The entire distribution of household inflation rates shifts in parallel with aggregate inflation. Deviations from aggregate inflation exhibit only slightly negative serial ...
Inflation at the Household Level
We use scanner data to estimate inflation rates at the household level. Households' inflation rates have an annual interquartile range of 6.2 to 9.0 percentage points. Most of the heterogeneity comes not from variation in broadly defined consumption bundles but from variation in prices paid for the same types of goods. Lower-income households experience higher inflation, but most cross-sectional variation is uncorrelated with observables. Households' deviations from aggregate inflation exhibit only slightly negative serial correlation. Almost all variability in a household's inflation rate ...