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Income Inequality, Financial Crises, and Monetary Policy
We construct a general equilibrium model in which income inequality results in insufficient aggregate demand, deflation pressure, and excessive credit growth by allocating income to agents featuring low marginal propensity to consume, and if excessive, can lead to an endogenous financial crisis. This economy generates distributions for equilibrium prices and quantities that are highly skewed to the downside due to financial crises and the liquidity trap. Consequently, symmetric monetary policy rules designed to minimize fluctuations around fixed means become inefficient. A simultaneous ...
College Tuition and Income Inequality
This paper evaluates the role of rising income inequality in explaining observed growth in college tuition. We develop a competitive model of the college market in which college quality depends on instructional expenditure and the average ability of admitted students. An innovative feature of our model is that it allows for a continuous distribution of college quality. We find that observed increases in US income inequality can explain more than the entire observed rise in average net tuition since 1990 and that rising income inequality has also depressed college attendance.
An Assignment Model of Knowledge Diffusion and Income Inequality
Randomness in individual discovery disperses productivities, whereas learning from others keeps productivities together. Long-run growth and persistent earnings inequality emerge when these two mechanisms for knowledge accumulation are combined. This paper considers an economy in which those with more useful knowledge can teach others, with competitive markets assigning students to teachers. In equilibrium, students with an ability to learn quickly are assigned to teachers with the most productive knowledge. This sorting on ability implies large differences in earnings distributions ...
Firming Up Inequality
We use a massive, matched employer-employee database for the United States to analyze the contribution of firms to the rise in earnings inequality from 1978 to 2013. We ?nd that one-third of the rise in the variance of (log) earnings occurred within firms, whereas two-thirds of the rise occurred between firms. However, this rising between-firm variance is not accounted for by the firms themselves: the firm-related rise in the variance can be decomposed into two roughly equally important forces?a rise in the sorting of high-wage workers to high-wage firms and a rise in the segregation of ...
Has income inequality or media fragmentation increased political polarization?
The increasing polarization of Congressional voting patterns has been attributed to factors including generational shifts, economic conditions, increased media fragmentation, and greater income inequality. The first of these factors is difficult to test with time series data owing to the low frequency of generational shifts, while the tendency of business cycles to reverse suggests that economic cycles are unable to account for long-term shifts in polarization. This leaves two main possible long-run drivers: the increasingly fragmented state of American media as stressed by Prior (2005, 2007) ...
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 ...
Top Income Inequality in the 21st Century: Some Cautionary Notes
We revisit recent empirical evidence about the rise in top income inequality in the United States, drawing attention to key issues that we believe are critical for an informed discussion about changing inequality since 1980: the definition of income (labor versus total), the unit of analysis (individual versus tax unit), the importance of partnership and S-corporation income, income shifting between the corporate and personal sectors in response to tax incentives, the definition of the top of the distribution, and trends in the middle and bottom of the distribution. Our goal is to inform ...
Does inequality cause financial distress? Evidence from lottery winners and neighboring bankruptcies
Revised Oct 2016. We test the hypothesis that income inequality causes financial distress. To identify the effect of income inequality, we examine lottery prizes of random dollar magnitudes in the context of very small neighborhoods (13 households on average). We find that a C$1,000 increase in the lottery prize causes a 2.4% rise in subsequent bankruptcies among the winners? close neighbors. We also provide evidence of conspicuous consumption as a mechanism for this causal relationship. The size of lottery prizes increases the value of visible assets (houses, cars, motorcycles), but not ...