Job Ladders and Careers
Workers in the United States experience vast differences in lifetime earnings. Individuals in the 90th percentile earn around seven times more than those in the 10th percentile, and those in the top percentile earn almost twenty times more. A large share of these differences arise over the course of people?s careers. What accounts for these vastly different outcomes in the labor market? Why do some individuals experience much steeper earnings profiles than others? Previous research has shown that the ?job ladder??in which workers obtain large pay increases when they switch to better jobs or ...
Does U.S. Health Inequality Reflect Income Inequality—or Something Else?
Health is an integral part of well-being. The United Nations Human Development Index uses life expectancy (together with GDP per capita and literacy) as one of three key indicators of human welfare across the world. In this post, I discuss the state of life expectancy inequality in the United States and examine some of the underlying factors in its evolution over the past several decades.
Is the Tide Lifting All Boats? A Closer Look at the Earnings Growth Experiences of U.S. Workers
The growth rate of hourly earnings is a widely used indicator to assess the economic progress of U.S. workers, as well as the health of the labor market. It is also a measure of wage pressures that could potentially spill over into inflationary pressures in a tightening labor market. Hourly earnings growth, on average, has gradually risen over the course of the current expansion, under way since the end of the Great Recession. But how have different groups of workers fared in this regard? Have hourly earnings risen uniformly at all points of the wage distribution, or have some segments of the ...
Business cycle fluctuations and the distribution of consumption
This paper sheds new light on the interactions between business cycles and the consumption distribution. We use Consumer Expenditure Survey data and a factor model to characterize the cyclical dynamics of the consumption distribution. We first establish that our approach is able to closely match business cycle fluctuations of consumption from the National Account. We then study the responses of the consumption distribution to total factor productivity shocks and economic policy uncertainty shocks. Importantly, we find that the responses of the right tail of the consumption distribution, ...
Anatomy of Lifetime Earnings Inequality: Heterogeneity in Job Ladder Risk vs. Human Capital
We study the determinants of lifetime earnings (LE) inequality in the United States, for which differences in lifetime earnings growth are key. Using administrative data and focusing on the roles of job ladder dynamics and on-the-job learning, we document that 1) lower LE workers change jobs more often, mainly driven by higher nonemployment; 2) earnings growth for job stayers is similar at around 2 percent in the bottom two-thirds of the LE distribution, whereas for job switchers it rises with LE; and 3) top LE workers enjoy high earnings growth regardless of job switching. We estimate a job ...
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, ...
Land of Opportunity? Economic Mobility in the United States
Income inequality has increased in recent years, while economic mobility has decreased. Many factors contribute to mobility, but for most people advancement depends on opportunities to obtain human capital ? opportunities that are not as good for children in poor families. Initiatives that focus on early childhood education seem to yield high returns on investment and potentially could help the United States achieve a more inclusive prosperity.
Inequality in and across Cities
Inequality in the United States has an important spatial component. More-skilled workers tend to live in larger cities where they earn higher wages. Less-skilled workers make lower wages and do not experience similar gains even when they live in those cities. This dynamic implies that larger cities are also more unequal. These relationships appear to have become more pronounced as inequality has increased. The evidence points to externalities among high-skilled workers as a significant contributor to those patterns.
Inequality Across and Within US Cities around the Turn of the Twenty-First Century
We review key facts about inequality across and within US cities around the turn of the twenty-first century and discuss theoretical interpretations. Large cities are cities with a greater proportion of skilled workers. In those large and skill-intensive cities, wages are overall higher but are offset by higher rents. Those higher wages are particularly prevalent among high-skilled workers, so that the skill premium increases with city size and skill mix. Over the last few decades, these facts have become increasingly salient. We discuss possible explanations for these facts with the help of ...
Regressive Welfare Effects of Housing Bubbles
We analyze the welfare effects of asset bubbles in a model with income inequality and financial friction. We show that a bubble that emerges in the value of housing, a durable asset that is fundamentally useful for everyone, has regressive welfare effects. By raising the housing price, the bubble benefits high-income savers but negatively affects low-income borrowers. The key intuition is that, by creating a bubble in the market price, savers' demand for the housing asset for investment purposes imposes a negative externality on borrowers, who only demand the housing asset for utility ...