Editor’s note: The DFA data upon which this post was based show a decline in the aggregate real wealth of Black households after 2019, as reported here. The authors are currently reviewing the data to determine whether a similar pattern exists for the typical Black household. (March 1, 3:47 pm)
Wealth is unevenly distributed across racial and ethnic groups in the United States. In this first post in a two-part series on wealth inequality, we use the Distributional Financial Accounts (DFA) to document these disparities between Black, Hispanic, and white households from the first quarter of 2019 to the third quarter of 2023 for wealth and a variety of asset and liability categories. We find that these disparities have been exacerbated since the pandemic, likely due to rapid growth in the financial assets more often held by white individuals.
Firms remain divided about the value of the office for “office” workers. Some firms think that their employees are more productive when working from home. Others believe that the office is a key place for investing in workers’ skills. In this post, which is based on a recent working paper, we examine whether both sides could be right: Could working in the office facilitate investments in workers’ skills for tomorrow that diminish productivity today?
The New York Fed recently released its latest set of Equitable Growth Indicators (EGIs). Updated quarterly, the EGIs continue to report demographic and geographic differences in inflation, earnings (real and nominal), employment, and consumer spending (real and nominal) at the national level. This release also launches a set of national wealth EGIs (which will be examined more closely on Liberty Street Economics early next year). Going forward, EGI releases will also include a set of regional EGIs, which will present disparities in inflation, earnings (real and nominal), employment, and consumer spending (real and nominal) in our region. Drawing on the just released EGIs, in this post, we present recent gender gaps in the labor market at the national and regional levels. We provide a picture of how gender wage and employment disparities have evolved since the pandemic, examining and contrasting gaps at the national and regional level. We find that the gaps between the employment rates and earnings of men and women have declined steadily following the pandemic, but have declined perceptibly more so in our region than in the nation.
In this post, we follow up on the previous Liberty Street Economics post in this series by studying other impacts of extreme weather on the real sector. Data from the Federal Reserve’s Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS) shed light on how small businesses in the Second District are impacted by natural disasters (such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, droughts, and winter storms). Among our findings are that increasing shares of small business firms in the region sustain losses from natural disasters, with minority-owned firms suffering losses at a disproportionately higher rate than white-owned firms. For many minority-owned firms, these losses make up a larger portion of their total revenues. In a companion post, we will explore the post-disaster recovery of small firms in the Second District: how long do they remain closed and what are their sources of disaster relief?
The U.S. labor force participation rate (LFPR) currently stands at 62.5 percent, 0.8 percentage point below its level in February 2020. This “participation gap” translates into 2.1 million workers out of the labor force. In this post, we evaluate three potential drivers of the gap: First, population aging from the baby boomers reaching retirement age puts downward pressure on participation. Second, the share of individuals of retirement age that are actually retired has risen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, long COVID and disability more generally may induce more people to leave the labor force. We find that nearly all of the participation gap can be explained by population aging, which caused a significant rise in the number of retirements. Higher retirement rates compared to pre-COVID have had only a modest effect, while disability has virtually no effect.
The sharp slowdown in China’s property sector has reignited debate over the country’s future role as a net provider of savings to the global economy. The debate revolves around whether a sustained decline in property investment will spur a long-term increase in China’s current account surplus, given the country’s high savings rate. However, China’s rapidly aging population presents opposing forces that complicate this story. The shift of a large share of its population from working life to retirement will reduce savings supply even as a shrinking labor force will reduce investment demand. In this post, we focus on the demographic part of the story and find that this force will exert considerable downward pressure on China’s current account surplus in coming years.
On August 24, 2022, the White House released a plan to cancel federal student loans for most borrowers. In April, we wrote about the costs and who most benefits from a few hypothetical loan forgiveness proposals using our Consumer Credit Panel, based on Equifax credit report data. In this post, we update our framework to consider the White House plan now that parameters are known, with estimates for the total amount of forgiven loans and the distribution of who holds federal student loans before and after the proposed debt jubilee.
This post concludes a three-part series exploring the gender, racial, and educational disparities of debt outcomes of college students. In the previous two posts, we examined how debt holding and delinquency behaviors vary among students of different race and gender, breaking up our analyses by level of degree pursued by the student. We found that Black and Hispanic students were less likely than white students to take on credit card debt, auto loans, and mortgage debt, but experienced higher rates of delinquency in each of these debt areas by the age of 30. In contrast, Black students were more likely to take out student debt and both Black and Hispanic students experienced higher rates of student debt delinquency. We found that Asian students broadly followed reverse patterns from Black and Hispanic students by age 30. They were more likely than white students to acquire mortgages and less likely to hold student debt, but their delinquency patterns were in general similar to those of white students. Women were less likely to hold an auto loan or mortgage and more likely to hold student debt by age 30, and in most cases their delinquency outcomes were indistinguishable from males. In this post, we seek to understand mechanisms behind these racial and gender disparities and examine the role of educational attainment in explaining these patterns.
This post is the second in a three-part series exploring racial, gender, and educational differences in household debt outcomes. In the first post, we examined how the propensity to take out household debt and loan amounts varied among students by race, gender, and education level, finding notable differences across all of these dimensions. Were these disparities in debt behavior by gender, race, and education level associated with differences in financial stress, as captured by delinquencies? This post focuses on this question.
Access to credit plays a central role in shaping economic opportunities of households and businesses. Access to credit also plays a crucial role in helping an economy successfully exit from the pandemic doldrums. The ability to get a loan may allow individuals to purchase a home, invest in education and training, or start and then expand a business. Hence access to credit has important implications for upward mobility and potentially also for inequality. Adverse selection and moral hazard problems due to asymmetric information between lenders and borrowers affect credit availability. Because of these information issues, lenders may limit credit or post higher lending rates and often require borrowers to pledge collateral. Consequently, relatively poor individuals with limited capital endowment may experience credit denial, irrespective of the quality of their investment ideas. As a result, their exclusion from credit access can hinder economic mobility and entrench income inequality. In this post, we describe the results of our recent paper which contributes to the understanding of this mechanism.