The panel data great stagnation and also student debt edition, courtesy Justin Weidner

Yes it supports what many of us have been saying for what is now quite a few years:

Using panel data on individual labor income from 1957 to 2013, we document two empirical facts about the distribution of lifetime income in the United States. First, we show that from the cohort that entered the labor market in 1968 to the one entered in 1983, three-quarters of U.S. workers did not experience any increase in lifetime income. Further, during the same period, median lifetime income actually declined by 10-20% for men but increased by 20-30% for women, yet the latter increase was not enough to offset the decline for males because of the very low lifetime income of the earlier cohorts of females. Accounting for rising employer provided health and retirement benefits partly mitigates these findings, but does not overturn them. Much of these changes across cohorts that we document come from the large changes in starting income levels (i.e., at age 25) across cohorts. Based on partial life-cycle income observed for cohorts that are currently in the labor market, the stagnation of lifetime incomes is unlikely to reverse. Second, turning to inequality in lifetime incomes, we find that it has increased significantly within each gender group, but the closing lifetime gender gap has kept overall lifetime inequality virtually flat.

That is from forthcoming work by Justin Weidner, Fatih Guvenen, Greg Kaplan, and Jae Song.  Right now I am looking at Weidner’s site, his job market paper (pdf) is also quite interesting:

I demonstrate that rise in debt since 1990 has contributed to income stagnation, lowering affected graduates’ income by 1.9\% on average. Because it does not distort occupational choices, an income contingent repayment scheme would increase income for constrained graduates by 3.5% on average.

I look forward to following his work in years to come.


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