The Piketty Transition
We study the effects on inequality of a "Piketty transition" to zero growth. In a model with a worker-capitalist dichotomy, we show first that the relationship between inequality (measured as a ratio of incomes for the two types) and growth is complicated; zero growth can raise or lower inequality, depending on parameters. Extending our model to include idiosyncratic wage risk we show that growth has quantitatively negligible effects on inequality, and the effect is negative. Finally, following Piketty?s thought experiment, we study how the transition might occur without declining returns; ...
The Politics of Flat Taxes
We study the political determination of flat tax systems using a workhorse macroeconomic model of inequality. There is significant variation in preferred tax policy across the wealth and income distribution. The majority voting outcome features (i) zero labor income taxation, (ii) simultaneous use of capital income and consumption taxation, and (iii) essentially zero transfers. This policy is supported by a coalition of low- and middle-wealth households. Zero labor income taxation is supported by households with below average wealth, while the middle-wealth households prefer to keep the ...
How Important Is Health Inequality for Lifetime Earnings Inequality?
Using a dynamic panel approach, we provide empirical evidence that negative health shocks reduce earnings. The effect is primarily driven by the participation margin and is concentrated in less educated individuals and those with poor health. We build a dynamic, general equilibrium, life cycle model that is consistent with these findings. In the model, individuals whose health is risky and heterogeneous choose to either work, or not work and apply for social security disability insurance (SSDI). Health affects individuals’ productivity, SSDI access, disutility from work, mortality, and ...
Human Capital Risk, Contract Enforcement, and the Macroeconomy
We use data from the Survey of Consumer Finance and Survey of Income Program Participation to show that young households with children are under-insured against the risk that an adult member of the household dies. We develop a tractable macroeconomic model with human capital risk, age-dependent returns to human capital investment, and endogenous borrowing constraints due to the limited pledgeability of human capital (limited contract enforcement). We show analytically that, consistent with the life insurance data, in equilibrium young households are borrowing constrained and under-insured ...
Appendix for Financial Frictions and Fluctuations in Volatility
This appendix contains five sections. Section 1 provides details for the comparative statics exercise performed in the simple example. Section 2 discusses extending the model to allow firms to default on the wages for managers. Section 3 describes the firm-level and aggregate data. Section 4 contains the details of the computational algorithm. Finally, Section 5 reports the results for our model with a lower labor elasticity.
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 ...
Constrained inefficiency and optimal taxation with uninsurable risks
When individuals' labor and capital income are subject to uninsurable idiosyncratic risks, should capital and labor be taxed, and if so, how? In a two-period general equilibrium model with production, we derive a decomposition formula of the welfare effects of these taxes into insurance and distribution effects. This method allows us to determine how the sign of the optimal taxes on capital and labor depends on the nature of the shocks, the degree of heterogeneity among consumers' income, and the way in which the tax revenue is used to provide lump sum transfers to consumers. When shocks ...
Optimal Taxation with Endogenous Default under Incomplete Markets
How are the optimal tax and debt policies affected if the government has the option to default on its debt? We address this question from a normative perspective in an economy with noncontingent government debt, domestic default and labor taxes. On one hand, default prevents the government from incurring future tax distortions that would come along with the service of the debt. On the other hand, default risk gives rise to endogenous credit limits that hinder the government's ability to smooth taxes. We characterize the fiscal policy and show how the option to default alters the near-unit ...
Mixed Signals: Investment Distortions with Adverse Selection
We study how adverse selection distorts equilibrium investment allocations in a Walrasian credit market with two-sided heterogeneity. Representative investor and partial equilibrium economies are special cases where investment allocations are distorted above perfect information allocations. By contrast, the general setting features a pecuniary externality that leads to trade and investment allocations below perfect information levels. The degree of heterogeneity between informed agents' type governs the direction of the distortion. Moreover, contracts that complete markets dampen the impact ...
Insurance in Human Capital Models with Limited Enforcement
This paper develops a tractable human capital model with limited enforceability of contracts. The model economy is populated by a large number of long-lived, risk-averse households with homothetic preferences who can invest in risk-free physical capital and risky human capital. Households have access to a complete set of credit and insurance contracts, but their ability to use the available financial instruments is limited by the possibility of default (limited contract enforcement). We provide a convenient equilibrium characterization that facilitates the computation of recursive equilibria ...