July 2017

IZA DP No. 10925: Modeling Life-Cycle Earnings Risk with Positive and Negative Shocks

published in: Review of Economic Dynamics, 2020, 37, 103-126

We study workers' idiosyncratic earnings risk over the life-cycle using a German administrative data set. Positive and negative earnings shocks both contain a highly persistent component. The variance and average size of positive persistent shocks is decreasing over the life-cycle. The (absolute) size of negative persistent shocks is increasing. The probability to experience either of these shocks is U-shaped in age; during prime-age it is around 35 percent. Negative transitory shocks are relatively larger and more dispersed than positive transitory shocks. Their size and variance are increasing over the life-cycle. Large persistent positive shocks early in life generate large wealth holdings for the top one percent of workers in an incomplete markets model. Moreover, age-varying risk implies a linear increase in consumption inequality late in working life.