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Inequality over the Business Cycle: Estimating Income Risk Using Micro-Data on Consumption

Universitat Pompeu Fabra: Departamento de Economía y Empresa
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We use CEX repeated cross-section data on consumption and income, to evaluate the nature of increased income inequality in the 1980s and 90s. We decompose unexpected changes in family income into transitory and permanent, and idiosyncratic and aggregate components, and estimate the contribution of each component to total inequality. The model we use is a linearized incomplete markets model, enriched to incorporate risk-sharing while maintaining tractability. Our estimates suggest that taking risk sharing into account is important for the model fit; that the increase in inequality in the 1980s was mainly permanent; and that inequality is driven almost entirely by idiosyncratic income risk. In addition we find no evidence for cyclical behavior of consumption risk, casting doubt on Constantinides and Duffie¿s (1995) explanation for the equity premium puzzle.

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