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Racial Wealth Disparities: Reconsidering the Roles of Human Capital and Inheritance
In this paper, we present updated measures of racial disparities in wealth using the most recent data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), augmented by household-level estimates of defined benefit (DB) pension wealth developed by Sabelhaus and Volz (2020). Including this important asset, we find that racial wealth disparities are smaller than the numbers typically discussed in other research or in the media, but the disparities remain substantial. The paper proceeds by exploring two specific factors that have long been identified as playing potentially important roles in generating ...
Opening remarks for the Chapter 9 and Alternatives for Distressed Municipalities and States Workshop
Remarks at the Chapter 9 and Alternatives for Distressed Municipalities and States Workshop, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, New York City.
A New Look at Racial Disparities Using a More Comprehensive Wealth Measure
Most research measuring disparities in wealth by race relies on data that exclude resources that are disproportionately important to low-wealth and non-white families, namely defined benefit (DB) pensions and Social Security. This paper finds that once these resources are included, disparities in wealth between white families and Black and Hispanic families are substantially smaller and that they are not rising over time. The powerful equalizing roles of DB pensions and Social Security highlighted here are further motivation for maintaining their fiscal health. This paper also presents ...
Breaking the Implicit Contract: Using Pension Freezes to Study Lifetime Labor Supply
This paper studies the elimination of traditional pensions and subsequent adoption of 401(k) plans by U.S. employers. Using thousands of firm-level natural experiments, it shows that unexpected losses in future compensation engendered by pension plan transitions induce premature retirement for some workers and delayed retirement for others. Observed heterogeneity in retirement behavior is indicative of differences in wealth and in preferences for leisure. Using credibly identified treatment effects as estimation targets, it fits a structural model of retirement and uses the model to evaluate ...
Wealth Concentration in the United States Using an Expanded Measure of Net Worth
Defined benefit (DB) pensions and Social Security are two important resources for financing retirement in the United States. However, these illiquid, non-market forms of wealth are typically excluded from measures of net worth. To the extent that these broadly held resources substitute for savings, measures of wealth inequality that do not account for DB pensions and Social Security may be overstated. This paper develops an alternative, expanded wealth concept, augmenting precise net worth data from the Survey of Consumer Finances with estimates of DB pension and expected Social Security ...