Higher-Order Income Risk over the Business Cycle


We extend the canonical income process with persistent and transitory risk to cyclical shock distributions with left-skewness and excess kurtosis. We estimate our income process by GMM for US household data. We find countercyclical variance and procyclical skewness of persistent shocks. All shock distributions are highly leptokurtic. The tax and transfer system reduces dispersion and left-skewness. We then show that in a standard incomplete-markets life-cycle model, first, higher-order risk has sizable welfare implications, which depend on risk attitudes; second, it matters quantitatively for the welfare costs of cyclical idiosyncratic risk; third, it has non-trivial implications for self-insurance against shocks.