Inequality in Human Capital and Endogenous Credit Constraints

69 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2017

See all articles by Rong Hai

Rong Hai

University of Miami - School of Business Administration - Department of Economics

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); American Bar Foundation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Date Written: December 2016

Abstract

This paper investigates the determinants of inequality in human capital with an emphasis on the role of the credit constraints. We develop and estimate a model in which individuals face uninsured human capital risks and invest in education, acquire work experience, accumulate assets and smooth consumption. Agents can borrow from the private lending market and from government student loan programs. The private market credit limit is explicitly derived by extending the natural borrowing limit of Aiyagari (1994) to incorporate endogenous labor supply, human capital accumulation, psychic costs of working, and age. We quantify the effects of cognitive ability, noncognitive ability, parental education, and parental wealth on educational attainment, wages, and consumption. We conduct counterfactual experiments with respect to tuition subsidies and enhanced student loan limits and evaluate their effects on educational attainment and inequality. We compare the performance of our model with an influential ad hoc model in the literature with education-specific fixed loan limits. We find evidence of substantial life cycle credit constraints that affect human capital accumulation and inequality. The constrained fall into two groups: those who are permanently poor over their lifetimes and a group of well-endowed individuals with rising high levels of acquired skills who are constrained early in their life cycles. Equalizing cognitive and noncognitive ability has dramatic effects on inequality. Equalizing parental backgrounds has much weaker effects. Tuition costs have weak effects on inequality.

Suggested Citation

Hai, Rong and Heckman, James J., Inequality in Human Capital and Endogenous Credit Constraints (December 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w22999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2892423

Rong Hai (Contact Author)

University of Miami - School of Business Administration - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 248126
Coral Gables, FL 33124-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/ronghaiecon/

James J. Heckman

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
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773-702-0634 (Phone)
773-702-8490 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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American Bar Foundation

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Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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