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Jel Classification:D31 

Working Paper
Consumption in the Great Recession: The Financial Distress Channel

During the Great Recession, the collapse of consumption across the U.S. varied greatly but systematically with house-price declines. We find that financial distress among U.S. households amplified the sensitivity of consumption to house-price shocks. We uncover two essential facts: (1) the decline in house prices led to an increase in household financial distress prior to the decline in income during the recession, and (2) at the zip-code level, the prevalence of financial distress prior to the recession was positively correlated with house-price declines at the onset of the recession. Using ...
Working Papers , Paper 2019-25

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 201918

Working Paper
Levels and trends in the income mobility of U.S. families, 1977−2012

Much of America?s promise is predicated on economic mobility?the possibility that people can move up and down the economic ladder during their lifetimes. Mobility is of particular consequence when economic disparities are increasing. Using panel data and mobility concepts and measures adapted from the literature, this paper examines 10-year income mobility levels and trends for U.S. working-age families during the time span 1977?2012. According to many measures, mobility, already limited in the 1978?1988 decade, declined over ensuing decades: families? later-year incomes increasingly depended ...
Working Papers , Paper 16-8

Working Paper
Does the Relative Income of Peers Cause Financial Distress? Evidence from Lottery Winners and Neighboring Bankruptcies

SUPERSEDED BY WP 18-22 We examine whether relative income differences among peers can generate financial distress. Using lottery winnings as plausibly exogenous variations in the relative income of peers, we find that the dollar magnitude of a lottery win of one neighbor increases subsequent borrowing and bankruptcies among other neighbors. We also examine which factors may mitigate lenders? bankruptcy risk in these neighborhoods. We show that bankruptcy filers can obtain secured but not unsecured debt, and lenders provide secured credit to low-risk but not high-risk debtors. In addition, we ...
Working Papers , Paper 18-16

Working Paper
Adverse Selection, Risk Sharing and Business Cycles

I consider a real business cycle model in which agents have private information about an idiosyncratic shock to their value of leisure. I consider the mechanism design problem for this economy and describe a computational method to solve it. This is an important contribution of the paper since the method could be used to solve a wide class of models with heterogeneous agents and aggregate uncertainty. Calibrating the model to U.S. data I find a striking result: That the information frictions that plague the economy have no effects on business cycle fluctuations.
Working Paper Series , Paper WP-2014-10

Working Paper
Cyclical Labor Income Risk

We investigate cyclicality of variance and skewness of household labor income risk using PSID data. There are five main findings. First, we find that head's labor income exhibits countercyclical variance and procyclical skewness. Second, the cyclicality of hourly wages is mutted, suggesting that head's labor income risk is mainly coming from the volatility of hours. Third, younger households face stronger cyclicality of income volatility than older ones, although the level of volatility is lower for the younger ones. Fourth, while a second earner helps lower the level of skewness, it does not ...
Opportunity and Inclusive Growth Institute Working Papers , Paper 22

Report
Educational assortative mating and household income inequality

We document the degree of educational assortative mating, how it evolves over time, and the extent to which it differs between countries. Our analysis focuses on the United States but also uses data from Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Norway. We find evidence of positive assortative mating at all levels of education in each country. However, the time trends vary by the level of education: Among college graduates, assortative mating has been declining over time, whereas individuals with a low level of education are increasingly sorting into internally homogeneous marriages. These ...
Staff Reports , Paper 682

Working Paper
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 ...
Working Papers , Paper 2018-020

Working Paper
Neighborhood Dynamics and the Distribution of Opportunity

Wilson (1987) argued that policies ending racial discrimination would not equalize opportunity without addressing residential sorting and neighborhood externalities. This paper studies related counterfactual policies using an overlapping-generations dynamic general equilibrium model of residential sorting and intergenerational human capital accumulation. In the model, households choose where to live and how much to invest toward the production of their child?s human capital. The return on parents? investment is determined in part by the child?s ability and in part by an externality determined ...
Working Papers (Old Series) , Paper 1525

Journal Article
“Family Achievements?”: How a College Degree Accumulates Wealth for Whites and Not For Blacks

A college education has been linked to higher life-time earnings and better economic achievements, so the expectation would be that it is also linked to higher net wealth for everybody. However, recent analyses challenge this hypothesis and find that the expectation holds true for White college-educated households but not for Black college-educated households. To examine this finding further and investigate the role of family financial transfers in household net wealth, the authors perform a mixed-method study using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics for a 24-year period, 1989-2013, ...
Review , Volume 99 , Issue 1 , Pages 121-137

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