We characterize the optimal reform of U.S. income support for low-income single parents using a life-cycle heterogeneous agent model with idiosyncratic risk and incomplete asset markets. We use the U.S. tax-transfer system as the benchmark policy and a sample of single mothers drawn from the CPS to assess reforms that maximize average expected utility among single mothers-to-be. When policy cannot be tagged by the age of the children, the optimal reform calls for an increase in out-of-work income support by about 15 percent, and a decrease in earnings subsidies to low-wage workers by roughly 50 percent. This reform delivers substantial welfare gains. Tagging policy by the age of the children makes the government's trade-off between providing insurance to single mothers with children of pre-school age, on the one hand, and providing work incentives to those with school-age children, on the other hand, more favorable, thus increasing their scope for smoothing marginal utility throughout the life cycle. With tagging, mothers of pre-school age children get a substantial increase in out-of-work income support and no earnings subsidies. Tagging brings additional welfare gains.
Homeownership rates differ widely across European countries. We document that part of this variation is driven by differences in the fraction of adults co-residing with their parents. Comparing Germany and Italy, we show that in contrast to homeownership rates per household, homeownership rates per individual are very similar during the first part of the life cycle. To understand these patterns, we build an overlapping-generations model where individuals face uninsurable income risk and make consumption-saving and housing tenure decisions. We embed an explicit intergenerational link between children and parents to capture the three-way trade-off between owning, renting, and co-residing. Calibrating the model to Germany we explore the role of income profiles, housing policies, and the taste for independence and show that a combination of these factors goes a long way in explaining the differential life-cycle patterns of living arrangements between the two countries.
Eligibility and benefits for anti-poverty income transfers in the U.S. are based on both the means and the household characteristics of applicants, such as their filing status, living arrangement, and marital status. In this paper we develop a dynamic structural model to study the effects of the U.S. tax-transfer system on the decisions of non-college-educated workers with children. In our model workers face uninsurable idiosyncratic risks and make decisions on savings, labor supply, living arrangement, and marital status. We find that the U.S. anti-poverty policy distorts the cohabitation/marriage decision of single mothers, providing incentives to cohabit. We also find quantitatively important effects on savings, and on the labor supply of husbands and wives. Namely, the model yields a U-shaped relationship between the earnings of one spouse and the labor supply of the other spouse, a result that we also find in the data. We show that these U-shaped relationships stem in part from the current design of anti-poverty income programs, and that the introduction of an EITC deduction on the earnings of secondary earners---as proposed in the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act---would increase the employment rate of the spouses of workers earning between $15K and $35K, especially of female spouses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes in key income support programs, reigniting a debate about the design of financial aid to low-income households with children. This study assesses the Family Security Act---a proposal presented by Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) on February 4, 2021 to reform the tax/transfer system---in terms of its efficacy to achieve the stated objectives of increasing marriage rates and cutting child poverty at no cost to the government. The assessment is carried out through a structural microsimulation approach, using a dynamic model of savings, labor supply, household formation, and marital status. We find that while the plan would be highly effective at increasing marriage rates, it would reduce child poverty at the expense of increasing poverty among single-mother families and deep child poverty. Furthermore, the plan would entail a substantial cost to taxpayers.
Three features of real-life reforms of dual employment protection legislation (EPL) systems are particularly hard to study through the lens of standard labour-market search models: (i) the excess job turnover implied by dual EPL, (ii) the non-retroactive nature of EPL reforms, and (iii) the transition dynamics from dual to a unified EPL system. In this paper, we develop a computationally tractable model addressing these issues. Our main finding is that the welfare gains of reforming a dual EPL system are sizeable and achieved mostly through a decrease in turnover at short job tenures. This conclusion continues to hold in more general settings featuring wage rigidities, heterogeneity in productivity upon matching, and human capital accumulation. We also find substantial cross-sectional heterogeneity in welfare effects along the transition to a unified EPL scheme. Given that the model is calibrated to data from Spain, often considered as the epitome of a labour market with dual EPL, our results should provide guidance for a wide range of reforms of dual EPL systems.
The homeownership rate in Germany is one of the lowest among advanced economies. To better understand this fact, we evaluate the role of specific housing policies which tend to discourage homeownership. In comparison to other countries with higher homeownership such as the United States, Germany has an extensive social housing sector with broad eligibility criteria, high transfer taxes when buying real estate, and no tax deductions for mortgage interest payments by owner-occupiers. We build a life-cycle model with uninsurable income and housing risks and endogenous homeownership in order to quantify the policy impact on homeownership and welfare. Adjusting all three policies has a strong impact on housing tenure choices, closing the gap in homeownership rates between Germany and the United States by about two thirds. At the same time, household welfare would be reduced by moving to a policy regime with low transfer taxes, but it would improve in the absence of social housing, in particular when coupled with housing subsidies for low-income households.
Marriage is one of the most important determinants of economic prosperity, yet most existing theories of inequality ignore the role of the family. This paper documents that the distributions of earnings and wealth are highly concentrated, even when disaggregated into single and married households. At the same time, there is a large marriage gap: married people earn on average 26 percent more income, and they hold 35 percent more net worth. To account for these facts, I develop a general equilibrium model where females and males face uninsurable income risk and make decisions on consumption-savings, labor supply and marriage formation. In a calibrated version of the model, I show that selection into marriage based on productive characteristics, an effective tax bonus for married couples, and stronger bequest motives for households with descendants are key to accounting for the marriage gap in earnings and wealth. A policy experiment of moving from joint tax filing for married couples to separate filing yields output gains and more marital sorting.
While it is recognized that the family is a risk-sharing institution, little is known about the quantitative effects of this source of insurance on savings and labor supply. In this paper, we present a model where workers (females and males) are subject to idiosyncratic employment risk and where capital markets are incomplete. A household is formed by a female and a male, who decide on consumption, savings and labor supplies. In a calibrated version of our model we find that intra-household risk sharing has its largest impact among wealth-poor households. While the wealth-rich use mainly savings to smooth consumption across unemployment spells, wealth-poor households rely on spousal labor supply. For instance, for low-wealth households, average hours worked by wives of unemployed husbands are 8% higher than those worked by wives of employed husbands. This response in wives' hours makes up 9% of lost family income. We also study the crowding out effects of the public unemployment insurance program on the extent of risk sharing within the household, and on consumption losses upon an unemployment spell.
This paper develops a macroeconomic model that combines an incomplete-markets overlapping-generations economy with a job ladder featuring strategic wage bargaining and endogenous search effort of employed and non-employed workers. The model is able to capture the empirical relationships between search activity, labor market transition, earnings and wealth that we document in German data. We use the calibrated model to analyze the determinants of job mobility, income and wealth dynamics over the life cycle. We further examine the impact of unemployment insurance and progressive taxation for labor market dynamics, wage inequality and macroeconomic outcomes.
In this paper, we evaluate reforms that alleviate large employment disincentives induced by child-related transfers for married mothers. We develop a life-cycle model where married couples face labor market, child care and fertility risk, and make joint labor supply and consumption-saving decisions. The evolution of female human capital is endogenous and shaped by mothers' employment decisions. We calibrate the model to the U.S. using data from the Current Population Survey. We show that participation tax rates exceed 25% for most mothers in our sample, and can be as high as 60% when including child care expenses. We then evaluate reforms to existing tax credits for working couples. We find that (i) expanding child care tax credits and (ii) introducing a secondary earner EITC deduction lead to substantially higher employment rates among married mothers. Both reforms are easily implementable, self-financing, and welfare-improving. A combination of both reforms closes the maternal employment gap altogether.