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This paper employs a multi-country large scale Overlapping Generations model with uninsurable labor productivity and mortality risk to quantify the impact of the demographic transition towards an older population in industrialized countries on world-wide rates of return, international capital flows and the distribution of wealth and welfare in the OECD. We find that for the U.S. as an open economy, rates of return are predicted to decline by 86 basis points between 2005 and 2080 and wages increase by about 4.1%. If the U.S. were a closed economy, rates of return would decline and wages increase by less. This is due to the fact that other regions in the OECD will age even more rapidly; therefore the U.S. is “importing” the more severe demographic transition from the rest of the OECD in the form of larger factor price changes. In terms of welfare, our model suggests that young agents with little assets and currently low labor productivity gain, up to 1% in consumption, from higher wages associated with population aging. Older, asset-rich households tend to lose, because of the predicted decline in real returns to capital. Klassifizierung: E17, E25, D33, C68

In this paper we quantitatively characterize the optimal capital and labor income tax in an overlapping generations model with idiosyncratic, uninsurable income shocks, where households also differ permanently with respect to their ability to generate income. The welfare criterion we employ is ex-ante (before ability is realized) expected (with respect to uninsurable productivity shocks) utility of a newborn in a stationary equilibrium. Embedded in this welfare criterion is a concern of the policy maker for insurance against idiosyncratic shocks and redistribution among agents of different abilities. Such insurance and redistribution can be achieved by progressive labor income taxes or taxation of capital income, or both. The policy maker has then to trade off these concerns against the standard distortions these taxes generate for the labor supply and capital accumulation decision. We find that the optimal capital income tax rate is not only positive, but is significantly positive. The optimal (marginal and average) tax rate on capital is 36%, in conjunction with a progressive labor income tax code that is, to a first approximation, a flat tax of 23% with a deduction that corresponds to about $6,000 (relative to an average income of households in the model of $35,000). We argue that the high optimal capital income tax is mainly driven by the life cycle structure of the model whereas the optimal progressivity of the labor income tax is due to the insurance and redistribution role of the income tax system. Klassifizierung: E62, H21, H24

We evaluate the asset pricing implications of a class of models in which risk sharing is imperfect because of the limited enforcement of intertemporal contracts. Lustig (2004) has shown that in such a model the asset pricing kernel can be written as a simple function of the aggregate consumption growth rate and the growth rate of consumption of the set of households that do not face binding enforcement constraints in that state of the world. These unconstrained households have lower consumption growth rates than constrained households, i.e. they are located in the lower tail of the crosssectional consumption growth distribution. We use household consumption data from the U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey to estimate the pricing kernel implied by the model and to evaluate its performance in pricing aggregate risk. We employ the same data to construct aggregate consumption and to derive the standard complete markets pricing kernel. We find that the limited enforcement pricing kernel generates a market price of risk that is substantially larger than the standard complete markets asset pricing kernel. Klassifizierung: G12, D53, D52, E44

Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey we first document that the recent increase in income inequality in the US has not been accompanied by a corresponding rise in consumption inequality. Much of this divergence is due to different trends in within-group inequality, which has increased significantly for income but little for consumption. We then develop a simple framework that allows us to analytically characterize how within-group income inequality affects consumption inequality in a world in which agents can trade a full set of contingent consumption claims, subject to endogenous constraints emanating from the limited enforcement of intertemporal contracts (as in Kehoe and Levine, 1993). Finally, we quantitatively evaluate, in the context of a calibrated general equilibrium production economy, whether this set-up, or alternatively a standard incomplete markets model (as in Ayiagari 1994), can account for the documented stylized consumption inequality facts from the US data. JEL Klassifikation: E21, D91, D63, D31, G22

This paper studies an overlapping generations model with stochastic production and incomplete markets to assess whether the introduction of an unfunded social security system leads to a Pareto improvement. When returns to capital and wages are imperfectly correlated a system that endows retired households with claims to labor income enhances the sharing of aggregate risk between generations. Our quantitative analysis shows that, abstracting from the capital crowding-out effect, the introduction of social security represents a Pareto improving reform, even when the economy is dynamically effcient. However, the severity of the crowding-out effect in general equilibrium tends to overturn these gains. Klassifikation: E62, H55, H31, D91, D58 . April 2005.

This paper computes the optimal progressivity of the income tax code in a dynamic general equilibrium model with household heterogeneity in which uninsurable labor productivity risk gives rise to a nontrivial income and wealth distribution. A progressive tax system serves as a partial substitute for missing insurance markets and enhances an equal distribution of economic welfare. These beneficial effects of a progressive tax system have to be traded off against the efficiency loss arising from distorting endogenous labor supply and capital accumulation decisions. Using a utilitarian steady state social welfare criterion we find that the optimal US income tax is well approximated by a flat tax rate of 17:2% and a fixed deduction of about $9,400. The steady state welfare gains from a fundamental tax reform towards this tax system are equivalent to 1:7% higher consumption in each state of the world. An explicit computation of the transition path induced by a reform of the current towards the optimal tax system indicates that a majority of the population currently alive (roughly 62%) would experience welfare gains, suggesting that such fundamental income tax reform is not only desirable, but may also be politically feasible. JEL Klassifikation: E62, H21, H24 .

This paper analyzes dynamic equilibrium risk sharing contracts between profit-maximizing intermediaries and a large pool of ex-ante identical agents that face idiosyncratic income uncertainty that makes them heterogeneous ex-post. In any given period, after having observed her income, the agent can walk away from the contract, while the intermediary cannot, i.e. there is one-sided commitment. We consider the extreme scenario that the agents face no costs to walking away, and can sign up with any competing intermediary without any reputational losses. We demonstrate that not only autarky, but also partial and full insurance can obtain, depending on the relative patience of agents and financial intermediaries. Insurance can be provided because in an equilibrium contract an up-front payment e.ectively locks in the agent with an intermediary. We then show that our contract economy is equivalent to a consumption-savings economy with one-period Arrow securities and a short-sale constraint, similar to Bulow and Rogo. (1989). From this equivalence and our characterization of dynamic contracts it immediately follows that without cost of switching financial intermediaries debt contracts are not sustainable, even though a risk allocation superior to autarky can be achieved. JEL Klassifikation: G22, E21, D11, D91.

This paper characterizes the stationary equilibrium of a continuous-time neoclassical production economy with capital accumulation in which households can insure against idiosyncratic income risk through long-term insurance contracts. Insurance companies operating in perfectly competitive markets can commit to future contractual obligations, whereas households cannot. For the case in which household labor productivity takes two values, one of which is zero, and where households have logutility we provide a complete analytical characterization of the optimal consumption insurance contract, the stationary consumption distribution and the equilibrium aggregate capital stock and interest rate. Under parameter restrictions, there is a unique stationary equilibrium with partial consumption insurance and a stationary consumption distribution that takes a truncated Pareto form. The unique equilibrium interest rate (capital stock) is strictly decreasing (increasing) in income risk. The paper provides an analytically tractable alternative to the standard incomplete markets general equilibrium model developed in Aiyagari (1994) by retaining its physical structure, but substituting the assumed incomplete asset markets structure with one in which limits to consumption insurance emerge endogenously, as in Krueger and Uhlig (2006).

We analyze efficient risk-sharing arrangements when the value from deviating is determined endogenously by another risk sharing arrangement. Coalitions form to insure against idiosyncratic income risk. Self-enforcing contracts for both the original coalition and any coalition formed (joined) after deviations rely on a belief in future cooperation which we term "trust". We treat the contracting conditions of original and deviation coalitions symmetrically and show that higher trust tightens incentive constraints since it facilitates the formation of deviating coalitions. As a consequence, although trust facilitates the initial formation of coalitions, the extent of risk sharing in successfully formed coalitions is declining in the extent of trust and efficient allocations might feature resource burning or utility burning: trust is indeed a double-edged sword.

We propose a new classification of consumption goods into nondurable goods, durable goods and a new class which we call “memorable” goods. A good is memorable if a consumer can draw current utility from its past consumption experience through memory. We construct a novel consumption-savings model in which a consumer has a well-defined preference ordering over both nondurable goods and memorable goods. Memorable goods consumption differs from nondurable goods consumption in that current memorable goods consumption may also impact future utility through the accumulation process of the stock of memory. In our model, households optimally choose a lumpy profile of memorable goods consumption even in a frictionless world. Using Consumer Expenditure Survey data, we then document levels and volatilities of different groups of consumption goods expenditures, as well as their expenditure patterns, and show that the expenditure patterns on memorable goods indeed differ significantly from those on nondurable and durable goods. Finally, we empirically evaluate our model’s predictions with respect to the welfare cost of consumption fluctuations and conduct an excess-sensitivity test of the consumption response to predictable income changes. We find that (i) the welfare cost of household-level consumption fluctuations may be overstated by 1.7 percentage points (11.9% points as opposed to 13.6% points of permanent consumption) if memorable goods are not appropriately accounted for; (ii) the finding of excess sensitivity of consumption documented in important papers of the literature might be entirely due to the presence of memorable goods.