Iacoviello, Matteo. “Household Debt and Income Inequality, 1963-2003”. Boston College Working Papers in Economics 629, 2005.
I construct an economy with heterogeneous agents that mimics the time-series behavior of the earnings distribution in the United States from 1963 to 2003. Agents face aggregate and idiosyncratic shocks and accumulate real and financial assets. I estimate the shocks that drive the model using data on income inequality, aggregate income, and measures of financial liberalization. I show how the model economy can replicate two empirical facts: the trend and cyclical behavior of household debt, and the diverging patterns in consumption and wealth inequality over time. While business cycle fluctuations can account for the short-run changes in household debt, its prolonged rise of the 1980s and the 1990s can be quantitatively explained only by the concurrent increase in income inequality.