On the Optimality of Differential Asset Taxation
How should a utilitarian government balance redistributive concerns with the need to provide incentives for business creation and investment? Should they tax business profits, the (risk-free) savings of owners, or some combination of both? To address this question, this paper presents a model in which the desirability of differential asset taxation emerges endogenously from the presence of agency frictions. I consider an environment in which entrepreneurs hire workers and rent capital to produce output subject to privately observed shocks and have the ability to both divert capital to private ...
Updating the Racial Wealth Gap
Using newly available data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, this paper updates and extends the literature exploring the racial wealth gap. We examine several hypotheses proposed by previous researchers, including the importance of inherited wealth and other family support and that of trends in local real estate markets, and also extend the literature by exploring the gap across the distribution of wealth and simultaneously considering white, African American and Hispanic households. The findings indicate that observable factors account for all of wealth gap between white and Hispanic ...
Credit, Income, and Inequality
Access to credit plays a central role in shaping economic opportunities of households and businesses. Access to credit also plays a crucial role in helping an economy successfully exit from the pandemic doldrums. The ability to get a loan may allow individuals to purchase a home, invest in education and training, or start and then expand a business. Hence access to credit has important implications for upward mobility and potentially also for inequality. Adverse selection and moral hazard problems due to asymmetric information between lenders and borrowers affect credit availability. Because ...
The Optimal Taxation of Business Owners
Business owners in the United States are disproportionately represented among the wealthy and are exposed to substantial idiosyncratic risk. Further, recent evidence indicates that business income primarily reflects returns to the human capital of the owner. Motivated by these facts, this paper characterizes stationary efficient allocations and optimal linear taxes on income and wealth when business income depends on innate ability, luck, and the past effort of the owner. I first show that in stationary efficient allocations, more productive entrepreneurs typically bear more risk and the ...
The Well-Being of Nations: Estimating Welfare from International Migration
The limitations of GDP as a measure of welfare are well known. We propose a new method of estimating the well-being of nations. Using gross bilateral international migration flows and a discrete choice model in which everyone in the world chooses a country in which to live, we estimate each country?s overall quality of life. Our estimates, by relying on revealed preference, complement previous estimates of economic well-being that consider only income or a small number of factors, or rely on structural assumptions about how these factors contribute to wellbeing.
Measuring Intergenerational Income Mobility: A Synthesis of Approaches
The literature on intergenerational income mobility uses a diverse set of measures and there is limited knowledge about whether these measures provide similar information and yield similar conclusions. We provide a framework to highlight the key concepts and properties of the different estimators. We then show how these measures relate to one another empirically. Our main analysis uses income tax data from Australia to produce a comprehensive set of empirical estimates for each of 19 different mobility measures at both the national and regional level. We supplement this analysis with other ...
Cliff notes: the effects of the 2013 debt-ceiling crisis
We investigate the effects of the 2013 debt-ceiling crisis on the Treasury bill market and possible spillovers to the commercial paper market and money market funds. We also compare this experience with the prior debt-ceiling crisis in 2011. We find that the 2013 debt-ceiling crisis reduced the demand for Treasury bills that were scheduled to mature right after the debt-ceiling deadline, but not for longer-term Treasury bills. Accordingly, we see that a hump formed at the shorter end of the term structure of Treasury bill yields around the debt-ceiling deadline, with the term structure ...
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 ...
Income inequality and political polarization: time series evidence over nine decades
Rising income inequality and political polarization have led some to hypothesize that the two are causally linked. Properly interpreting such correlations is complicated by the multiple factors that drive each of these phenomena, potential feedbacks between inequality and polarization, measurement issues, and statistical challenges for modeling non-stationary variables. We find that a more precise measure of inequality (the inverted Pareto-Lorenz coefficient) is statistically related to polarization while a less precise one (top 1% income share) is not, and that there are bi-directional ...
Wealth Distribution and Retirement Preparation among Early Savers
This paper develops a new combined-wealth measure by augmenting data on net worth from the Survey of Consumer Finances with estimates of defined benefit (DB) pension and expected Social Security wealth. We use this concept to explore retirement preparation among two groups of households in pre-retirement years (aged 40 through 49 and 50 through 59), and 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 wealth ...