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Paul Goldsmith-Pinkham, Maxim Pinkovskiy, and Jacob Wallace
Consumer financial strain varies enormously across the United States. One pernicious source of financial strain is debt in collections—debt that is more than 120 days past due and that has been sold to a collections agency. In Massachusetts, the average person has less than $100 in collections debt, while in Texas, the average person has more than $300. In this post, we discuss our recent staff report that exploits the fact that virtually all Americans are universally covered by Medicare at 65 to show that health insurance not only improves financial health on average, but also is a major explanation for the heterogeneity in financial strain across the country. We find that Medicare affects different parts of the United States differently and plays a particularly important role in improving financial health in the least advantaged areas.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, William Nober, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
In an October post, we showed the effect of college tuition subsidies in the form of merit-based financial aid on educational and student debt outcomes, documenting a large decline in student debt for those eligible for merit aid. Additionally, we reported striking differences in these outcomes by demographics, as proxied by neighborhood race and income. In this follow-up post, we examine whether and how this effect passes through to other debt and consumption outcomes, namely those related to autos, homes, and credit cards. We find that access to merit aid leads to an immediate but temporary increase in eligible individuals’ consumption in these categories. The increase is followed by a decline in consumption and a reduction in total debt of these types in the longer term. Importantly, there are marked differences in these consumption and debt patterns across income and race groups.
Rajashri Chakrabarti, William Nober, and Wilbert van der Klaauw
Across the United States, the cost of all types of higher education has been rising faster than overall inflation for more than two decades. Despite rising costs, aggregate undergraduate enrollment rose steadily between 2000 and 2010 before leveling off and dipping slightly to its current level. Rising college costs have steadily increased dependence on student debt for college financing, with many students and parents turning to federal and private loans to pay for higher education. An earlier post in this series reported that borrowers in majority Black areas have higher student loan balances and rates of default than those in both majority white and majority Hispanic areas. In this post, we study how differences in college attendance rates and in the types of colleges attended generate heterogeneity in loan experiences. Specifically, using nationwide data, we analyze heterogeneities in college-going and heterogeneities in student debt and default experiences by college type across individuals living in majority Black, majority Hispanic, and majority white zip codes.
Average economic outcomes serve as important indicators of the overall state of the economy. However, they mask a lot of underlying variability in how people experience the economy across geography, or by race, income, age, or other attributes. Following our series on heterogeneity broadly in October 2019 and in labor market outcomes in March 2020, we now turn our focus to further documenting heterogeneity in the credit market. While we have written about credit market heterogeneity before, this series integrates insights on disparities in outcomes in various parts of the credit market. The analysis includes a look at differing homeownership rates across populations, varying exposure to foreclosures and evictions, and uneven student loan burdens and repayment behaviors. It also covers heterogeneous effects of policies by comparing financial health outcomes for those with access to public tuition subsidies and Medicare versus those not eligible. The findings underscore that a measure of the average, particularly relating to policy impact, is far from complete. Rather, a sharper picture of the diverse effects is essential to understanding the efficacy of policy.
In this post, we study whether (and how) the spread of COVID-19 across the United States has varied by geography, race, income, and population density. Have urban areas been more affected by COVID-19 than rural areas? Has population density mattered in the spread? Has the coronavirus's impact varied by race and income? Our analysis uncovers stark demographic and geographic differences in the effects of the pandemic thus far.
René Chalom, Fatih Karahan, Brendan Moore, and Giorgio Topa
The growth rate of hourly earnings is a widely used indicator to assess the economic progress of U.S. workers, as well as the health of the labor market. It is also a measure of wage pressures that could potentially spill over into inflationary pressures in a tightening labor market. Hourly earnings growth, on average, has gradually risen over the course of the current expansion, under way since the end of the Great Recession. But how have different groups of workers fared in this regard? Have hourly earnings risen uniformly at all points of the wage distribution, or have some segments of the workforce been left behind? In this post, we take a close look at earnings growth over the past two decades at different points of the wage distribution and for various demographic groups. Our goal is to examine whether there are any significant patterns in the evolution of the distribution of earnings, as opposed to just looking at the behavior of aggregate earnings growth. We focus primarily on hourly earnings growth, although our findings apply to total earnings as well.
Technological change and globalization have caused a massive transformation in the U.S. economy. While creating new opportunities for many workers, these forces have eliminated millions of good-paying jobs, particularly routine jobs in the manufacturing sector. Indeed, a great deal of attention
has focused on the consequences
of the loss of blue-collar production jobs
for prime‑age men. What is often overlooked, however, is that
women have also been hit hard
by the loss of routine jobs, particularly administrative support jobs—a type of routine work that has historically been largely performed by women. In this post, we show that the combined loss of production and administrative support jobs since 2000 is actually more than three times as large for prime-age women than prime-age men.
While average outcomes serve as important yardsticks for how the economy is doing, understanding heterogeneity—how outcomes vary across a population—is key to understanding both the whole picture and the implications of any given policy. Following our six-part look at heterogeneity in October 2019, we now turn our focus to heterogeneity in the labor market—the subject of four posts set for release tomorrow morning. Average labor market statistics mask a lot of underlying variability—disparities that factor into labor market dynamics. While we have written about labor market heterogeneity before, this series is an attempt to pull together in a cohesive way new insights on the labor market and highlight details that are not immediately obvious when we study aggregate labor market statistics.
In recent years there has been a lot of interest in the effect of income inequality (heterogeneity) on the economy, from both academics and policymakers. Researchers have developed Heterogeneous Agent New Keynesian (HANK) models that incorporate heterogeneity and uninsurable idiosyncratic risk into the New Keynesian models that have become a cornerstone of monetary policy analysis. This research has argued that heterogeneity and idiosyncratic risk change many features of New Keynesian models – the
transmission of conventional monetary policy, the forward guidance puzzle, fiscal multipliers, the efficacy of targeted transfers and automatic stabilizers, among others. However, the source of the difference between HANK and representative agent New Keynesian (RANK) models remains unclear. This is because HANK models are typically not analytically tractable, leaving it unclear what exactly is driving the results. To shed light on the macroeconomic consequences of heterogeneity, we develop a stylized HANK model that contains key features present in more complicated HANK models.
Health is an integral part of well-being. The United Nations Human Development Index uses life expectancy (together with GDP per capita and literacy) as one of three key indicators of human welfare across the world. In this post, I discuss the state of life expectancy inequality in the United States and examine some of the underlying factors in its evolution over the past several decades.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
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