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Jel Classification:D91 

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Do consumers rely more heavily on credit cards while unemployed?

Leading up to the Great Recession, households increased their credit card debt by over 16 percent ($121 billion) during the five-year period from 2004 to 2009. The unemployment rate simultaneously began to rise in 2008, increasing from 5.0 percent in January 2008 to a high of 10.0 percent in October of 2009. During the recovery, from 2009 to 2014, credit card debt fell by more than 25 percent, as the unemployment rate returned to near prerecession levels. These coincident developments have led to speculation that consumers facing unemployment or job uncertainty may have increased their ...
Research Data Report , Paper 16-6

Report
Latent Heterogeneity in the Marginal Propensity to Consume

We estimate the distribution of marginal propensities to consume (MPCs) using a new approach based on the fuzzy C-means algorithm (Dunn 1973; Bezdek 1981). The algorithm generalizes the K-means methodology of Bonhomme and Manresa (2015) to allow for uncertain group assignment and to recover unobserved heterogeneous effects in cross-sectional and short panel data. We extend the fuzzy C-means approach from the cluster means case to a fully general regression setting and derive asymptotic properties of the corresponding estimators by showing that the problem admits a generalized method of ...
Staff Reports , Paper 902

Report
Risk Preferences at the Time of COVID-19: An Experiment with Professional Traders and Students

We study whether the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted risk preferences, comparing the results of experiments conducted before and during the outbreak. In each experiment, we elicit risk preferences from two sample groups: professional traders and undergraduate students. We find that, on average, risk preferences have remained constant for both pools of participants. Our results suggest that the increases in risk premia observed during the pandemic are not due to changes in risk appetite; rather, they are solely due to a change in beliefs by market participants. The findings of our paper support ...
Staff Reports , Paper 927

Report
Health and Mortality Delta: Assessing the Welfare Cost of Household Insurance Choice

We develop a pair of risk measures, health and mortality delta, for the universe of life and health insurance products. A life-cycle model of insurance choice simplifies to replicating the optimal health and mortality delta through a portfolio of insurance products. We estimate the model to explain the observed variation in health and mortality delta implied by the ownership of life insurance, annuities including private pensions, and long-term care insurance in the Health and Retirement Study. For the median household aged 51 to 57, the lifetime welfare cost of market incompleteness and ...
Staff Report , Paper 499

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
Explaining Intergenerational Mobility: The Role of Fertility and Family Transfers

Poor families have more children and transfer less resources to them. This suggests that family decisions about fertility and transfers dampen intergenerational mobility. To evaluate the quantitative importance of this mechanism, we extend the standard heterogeneous agent life cycle model with earnings risk and credit constraints to allow for endogenous fertility, family transfers, and education. The model, estimated to the US in the 2000s, implies that a counterfactual flat income-fertility profile would-through the equalization of initial conditions-increase intergenerational mobility by ...
Working Papers , Paper 2018-011

Working Paper
Taxing top earners: a human capital perspective

We assess the consequences of substantially increasing the marginal tax rate on U.S. top earners using a human capital model. The top of the model Laffer curve occurs at a 53 percent top tax rate. Tax revenues and the tax rate at the top of the Laffer curve are smaller compared to an otherwise similar model that ignores the possibility of skill change in response to a tax reform. We also show that if one applies the methods used by Diamond and Saez (2011) to provide quantitative guidance for setting the tax rate on top earners to model data then the resulting tax rate exceeds the tax rate at ...
Working Papers , Paper 2014-17

Working Paper
The Sufficient Statistic Approach: Predicting the Top of the Laffer Curve

We provide a formula for the tax rate at the top of the Laffer curve as a function of three elasticities. Our formula applies to static models and to steady states of dynamic models. One of the elasticities that enters our formula has been estimated in the elasticity of taxable income literature. We apply standard empirical methods from this literature to data produced by reforming the tax system in a model economy. We find that these standard methods underestimate the relevant elasticity in models with endogenous human capital accumulation.
Working Papers , Paper 2015-38

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

Journal Article
Top Earners: Cross-Country Facts

We provide a common set of life cycle earnings statistics based on administrative data from the United States, Canada, Denmark, and Sweden. We find three qualitative patterns, which are common across countries. First, top-earnings inequality increases over the working lifetime. Second, the extreme right tail of the earnings distribution becomes thicker with age over the working lifetime. Third, top lifetime earners exhibit dramatic earnings growth over their working lifetime. Models of top earners should account for these three patterns and, importantly, for how they quantitatively differ ...
Review , Volume 100 , Issue 3 , Pages 237-57

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