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Jel Classification:D31 

Working Paper
Accounting for racial wealth disparities in the United States

Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, this paper updates and extends previous research on the racial wealth gap in the United States. We explore several hypotheses that help explain differential wealth accumulation by racial groups, including the importance of receiving inheritances and other financial support from relatives and the conditions in local real estate markets. By exploring the disparities among white, black, and Hispanic families, we make new contributions to the literature. We find that observable factors account for the entire wealth gap between white and Hispanic ...
Working Papers , Paper 19-13

Working Paper
Risk Aversion at the Country Level

In this paper we provide estimates of the coefficient of relative risk aversion for 80 countries using data on self-reports of personal well-being from the Gallup World Poll. For most countries we cannot reject the null hypothesis that the coefficient of relative risk aversion equals 1. We conclude that our result supports the use of the log utility function in numerical simulations.
Working Papers , Paper 2014-5

Report
Modigliani Meets Minsky: Inequality, Debt, and Financial Fragility in America, 1950-2016

This paper studies the secular increase in U.S. household debt and its relation to growing income inequality and financial fragility. We exploit a new household-level data set that covers the joint distributions of debt, income, and wealth in the United States over the past seven decades. The data show that increased borrowing by middle-class families with low income growth played a central role in rising indebtedness. Debt-to-income ratios have risen most dramatically for households between the 50th and 90th percentiles of the income distribution. While their income growth was low, ...
Staff Reports , Paper 924

Journal Article
Household Debt and the Great Recession

In the mid-2000s, household private debt reached a new level 1.2 times larger than personal income? before collapsing during the Great Recession. This paper uses microeconomic data to document the main changes in personal debt and explore the behavior of debt across generations over two periods: before and after the Great Recession. Special emphasis is placed on participation rates by category of debt (the extensive margin), volume borrowed (the intensive margin), and default behavior. Key findings include that between 1999 and 2013 the fraction of individuals with only unsecured (e.g., ...
Review , Volume 99 , Issue 2

Working Paper
The Dynamics of the Racial Wealth Gap

We reconcile the large and persistent racial wealth gap with the smaller racial earnings gap, using a general equilibrium heterogeneous-agents model that matches racial differences in earnings, wealth, bequests, and returns to savings. Given initial racial wealth inequality in 1962, our model attributes the slow convergence of the racial wealth gap primarily to earnings, with much smaller roles for bequests or returns to savings. Cross-sectional regressions of wealth on earnings using simulated data produce the same racial gap documented in the literature. One-time wealth transfers have only ...
Working Papers , Paper 19-18

Working Paper
Household Financial Distress and the Burden of 'Aggregate' Shocks

The goal of this paper is to show that household-level financial distress (FD) varies greatly, meaning there is unequal exposure to macroeconomic risk, and that FD can increase macroeconomic vulnerability. To do this, we first establish three facts: (i) regions in the U.S. vary significantly in their "FD-intensity," measured either by how much additional credit households therein can access, or in how delinquent they typically are on debts, (ii) shocks that are typically viewed as "aggregate" in nature hit geographic areas quite differently, and (iii) FD is an economic "pre-existing ...
Working Paper , Paper 20-12

Working Paper
Measuring Income and Wealth at the Top Using Administrative and Survey Data

Administrative tax data indicate that U.S. top income and wealth shares are substantial and increasing rapidly (Piketty and Saez 2003, Saez and Zucman 2014). A key reason for using administrative data to measure top shares is to overcome the under-representation of families at the very top that plagues most household surveys. However, using tax records alone restricts the unit of analysis for measuring economic resources, limits the concepts of income and wealth being measured, and imposes a rigid correlation between income and wealth. The Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) solves the ...
Finance and Economics Discussion Series , Paper 2015-30

Journal Article
Do Family Structure Differences Explain Trends in Wealth Differentials?

Race and ethnic wealth differentials are wide and increasing. Some of the gaps are associated with education differences, but education alone cannot account for the substantially higher net worth of White families than of Black and Hispanic families. As of 2013, the median wealth of Black college graduate families had fallen to only 13 percent of the median wealth of White families. One possible explanation is the significantly lower shares of married couple and married parent households among minorities. For example, even among college graduates, only 41 percent of Black family heads were ...
Review , Volume 99 , Issue 1 , Pages 85-101

Working Paper
Income and Wealth Inequality in America, 1949-2016

This paper introduces a new long-run dataset based on archival data from historical waves of the Survey of Consumer Finances. The household-level data allow us to study the joint distributions of household income and wealth since 1949. We expose the central importance of portfolio composition and asset prices for wealth dynamics in postwar America. Asset prices shift the wealth distribution because the composition and leverage of household portfolios differ systematically along the wealth distribution. Middle-class portfolios are dominated by housing, while rich households predominantly own ...
Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute Working Papers , Paper 9

Working Paper
Neoclassical Inequality

In a model with a worker-capitalist dichotomy, we show that the relationship between inequality (measured as a ratio of incomes for the two types) and growth is complicated; zero growth generally lowers inequality, except under extreme parameterizations. In particular, the elasticity of substitution between capital and labor in production needs to be considerably greater than 1 in order for income inequality be higher with zero growth. If this condition is not met, factor prices adjust strongly causing the fall in the return to capital (the rise in wages) to reduce income inequality. Our ...
Working Papers , Paper 14-32R2

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