Cyclical Dynamics in Idiosyncratic Labor Market Risk
Posted: 3 May 2004
Is individual labor income more risky in recessions? This is a difficult question to answer because existing panel data sets are so short. To address this problem, we develop a generalized method of moments estimator that conditions on the macroeconomic history that each member of the panel has experienced. Variation in the cross-sectional variance between households with differing macroeconomic histories allows us to incorporate business cycle information dating back to 1930, even though our data do not begin until 1968. We implement this estimator using household-level labor earnings data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. We estimate that idiosyncratic risk is (i) highly persistent, with an annual autocorrelation coefficient of 0.95, and (ii) strongly countercyclical, with a conditional standard deviation that increases by 75 percent (from 0.12 to 0.21) as the macroeconomy moves from peak to trough.
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