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Jel Classification:D31 

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

Report
Credit, Income and Inequality

Analyzing unique data on loan applications by individuals who are majority owners of small firms, we detail how a bank’s credit decisions affect their future income. We use the bank’s cutoff rule, which is based on the applicants’ credit scores, as the discontinuous locus providing exogenous variation in the decision to grant loans. We show that application acceptance increases recipients’ income five years later by more than 10 percent compared to denied applicants. This effect is mostly driven by the use of borrowed funds to undertake investments, and is stronger when individuals ...
Staff Reports , Paper 929

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

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

Report
Intergenerational Redistribution in the Great Recession

We construct a stochastic overlapping-generations general equilibrium model in which households are subject to aggregate shocks that affect both wages and asset prices. We use a calibrated version of the model to quantify how the welfare costs of big recessions are distributed across different household age groups. The model predicts that younger cohorts fare better than older cohorts when the equilibrium decline in asset prices is large relative to the decline in wages. Asset price declines hurt the old, who rely on asset sales to finance consumption, but benefit the young, who purchase ...
Staff Report , Paper 498

Working Paper
Mortgage Debt, Consumption, and Illiquid Housing Markets in the Great Recession

Using a model with housing search, endogenous credit constraints, and mortgage default, this paper accounts for the housing crash from 2006 to 2011 and its implications for aggregate and cross-sectional consumption during the Great Recession. Left tail shocks to labor market uncertainty and tighter down payment requirements emerge as the key drivers. An endogenous decline in housing liquidity amplifies the recession by increasing foreclosures, contracting credit, and depressing consumption. Balance sheets act as a transmission mechanism from housing to consumption that depends on gross ...
Working Papers , Paper 2017-30

Working Paper
The Higher Price of Mortgage Financing for Native Americans

A?ordable access to capital and quality housing is a challenge facing Native Americans. In this paper, we demonstrate that mortgage loans with Native Americans as the primary borrower are systematically more likely to be higher-priced. These loans have an average interest rate nearly 2 percentage points above the average loan for non-Native Americans. We also demonstrate that these higher-priced home loans are predominately found on reservation lands and that manufactured homes account for nearly 25 percent to 35 percent of the di?erence in the cost of ?nancing. These results potentially ...
Center for Indian Country Development series , Paper 4-2019

Working Paper
Insurance and Inequality with Persistent Private Information

We study optimal insurance contracts for an agent with Markovian private information. Our main results characterize the implications of constrained efficiency for long-run welfare and inequality. Under minimal technical conditions, there is Absolute Immiseration: in the long run, the agent?s consumption and utility converge to their lower bounds. When types are persistent and utility is unbounded below, there is Relative Immiseration: low-type agents are immiserated at a faster rate than high-type agents, and ?pathwise welfare inequality? grows without bound. These results extend and ...
Working Papers , Paper 2018-20

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
Peers’ Income and Financial Distress: Evidence from Lottery Winners and Neighboring Bankruptcies

SUPRSEDES WP 18-16 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 obtain more secured but not unsecured debt, and lenders provide additional credit to low-risk but not high-risk debtors. In addition, we ...
Working Papers , Paper 18-22

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