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  • J96020713?file=thumbnail
    Creator: Chen, Daphne, Guvenen, Fatih, Kambourov, Gueorgui, Kuruscu, Burhanettin, and Ocampo, Sergio
    Series: Working paper (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department)
    Number: 764

    How does wealth taxation differ from capital income taxation? When the return on investment is equal across individuals, a well-known result is that the two tax systems are equivalent. Motivated by recent empirical evidence documenting persistent heterogeneity in rates of return across individuals, we revisit this question. With such heterogeneity, the two tax systems have opposite implications for both efficiency and inequality. Under capital income taxation, entrepreneurs who are more productive, and therefore generate more income, pay higher taxes. Under wealth taxation, entrepreneurs who have similar wealth levels pay similar taxes regardless of their productivity, which expands the tax base, shifts the tax burden toward unproductive entrepreneurs, and raises the savings rate of productive ones. This reallocation increases aggregate productivity and output. In the simulated model parameterized to match the US data, replacing the capital income tax with a wealth tax in a revenue-neutral fashion delivers a significantly higher average lifetime utility to a newborn (about 7.5% in consumption-equivalent terms). Turning to optimal taxation, the optimal wealth tax (OWT) in a stationary equilibrium is positive and yields even larger welfare gains. In contrast, the optimal capital income tax (OCIT) is negative—a subsidy—and large, and it delivers lower welfare gains than the wealth tax. Furthermore, the subsidy policy increases consumption inequality, whereas the wealth tax reduces it slightly. We also consider an extension that models the transition path and find that individuals who are alive at the time of the policy change, on average, would incur large welfare losses if the new policy is OCIT but would experience large welfare gains if the new policy is an OWT. We conclude that wealth taxation has the potential to raise productivity while simultaneously reducing consumption inequality.

    Keyword: Capital income tax, Wealth taxation, Wealth inequality, Power law models, and Rate of return heterogeneity
    Subject (JEL): E21 - Macroeconomics: Consumption; Saving; Wealth, H21 - Taxation and Subsidies: Efficiency; Optimal Taxation, E22 - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity, and E62 - Fiscal Policy
  • 0k225b13n?file=thumbnail
    Creator: Guvenen, Fatih
    Series: Staff report (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department)
    Number: 434

    I study asset prices in a two-agent macroeconomic model with two key features: limited stock market participation and heterogeneity in the elasticity of intertemporal substitution in consumption (EIS). The model is consistent with some prominent features of asset prices, such as a high equity premium; relatively smooth interest rates; procyclical stock prices; and countercyclical variation in the equity premium, its volatility, and in the Sharpe ratio. In this model, the risk-free asset market plays a central role by allowing non-stockholders (with low EIS) to smooth the fluctuations in their labor income. This process concentrates non-stockholders’ labor income risk among a small group of stockholders, who then demand a high premium for bearing the aggregate equity risk. Furthermore, this mechanism is consistent with the very small share of aggregate wealth held by non-stockholders in the US data, which has proved problematic for previous models with limited participation. I show that this large wealth inequality is also important for the model’s ability to generate a countercyclical equity premium. When it comes to business cycle performance the model’s progress has been more limited: consumption is still too volatile compared to the data, whereas investment is still too smooth. These are important areas for potential improvement in this framework.

    Keyword: Elasticity of intertemporal substitution, Epstein–Zin preferences, Equity premium puzzle, Wealth inequality, and Limited stock market participation
  • 1r66j119p?file=thumbnail
    Creator: Krueger, Dirk, Mitman, Kurt, and Perri, Fabrizio
    Series: Staff report (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Research Department)
    Number: 532

    How big are the welfare losses from severe economic downturns, such as the U.S. Great Recession? How are those losses distributed across the population? In this paper we answer these questions using a canonical business cycle model featuring household income and wealth heterogeneity that matches micro data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). We document how these losses are distributed across households and how they are affected by social insurance policies. We find that the welfare cost of losing one’s job in a severe recession ranges from 2% of lifetime consumption for the wealthiest households to 5% for low-wealth households. The cost increases to approximately 8% for low-wealth households if unemployment insurance benefits are cut from 50% to 10%. The fact that welfare losses fall with wealth, and that in our model (as in the data) a large fraction of households has very low wealth, implies that the impact of a severe recession, once aggregated across all households, is very significant (2.2% of lifetime consumption). We finally show that a more generous unemployment insurance system unequivocally helps low-wealth job losers, but hurts households that keep their job, even in a version of the model in which output is partly demand determined, and therefore unemployment insurance stabilizes aggregate demand and output.

    Keyword: Welfare loss from recessions, Social insurance, Wealth inequality, and Great Recession
    Subject (JEL): E21 - Macroeconomics: Consumption; Saving; Wealth, E32 - Business Fluctuations; Cycles, and J65 - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings