Discussion of

Labor Market Experiences and Portfolio Choice: Evidence from the Finnish Great Depression by S. Kn¨ upfer, E. Rantapuska, and M. Sarvim¨aki

Stefan Nagel University of Michigan, NBER, CEPR

January 2014

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Past labor market experiences and portfolio choice

Big effect of unemployment experience (in region-sector-occupation cell) on stock market participation 15 years later Main result carefully documented and clearly economically significant Omitted variable stories (non-random selection into unemployment conditional on observables) do not seem plausible But channel through which the effect works is still an open question, to some extent

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Past labor market experiences and portfolio choice: Channels Risk preferences Beliefs pessimism about macroeconomy? beliefs about (disaster) covariance of labor income/unemployment shocks and the stock market (overemphasis on salient own experience)? lack of trust in stock market and financial intermediaries (Guiso et al. 2008)?

Wealth/income risk Wealth/assets/income levels well established channel for stock market participation effects (e.g. participation cost models)

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Decomposition into wealth/income effects and residual Table 5 effects Decompositions This table decomposes the total effect of labor market conditions on portfolio choice to four components that work through the effects labor market conditions have on future labor market outcomes. The table reports the point estimates for months unemployed, labor income, assets, and liabilities, and the share of the total effect attributable to each component. Specifications and control variables are as in Table 2; the text discusses the decomposition technique. Months unemployed and income are measured over the 12-year post-depression period from 1994 to 2005, whereas assets and liabilities are from the year 2005. The z-values for the point estimates, reported in parentheses, and the standard errors for the shares of total effects, reported in brackets, are based on block bootstrapping at the regionsector-occupation level.

Results suggest a big part of the labor market effect is explained by unemployment → assets/income → stock market participation channel Dependent variable Specification

Stock market participation 1 Point Share of estimate total effect

Income Unemployment Assets Liabilities Total

2 Point Share of estimate total effect

3 Point Share of estimate total effect

4 Point Share of estimate total effect

–0.068

10.0%

–0.065

10.5%

–0.058

8.6%

–0.053

8.5%

(–3.40)

[2.9%]

(–4.42)

[3.2%]

(–3.73)

[2.4%]

(–4.00)

[2.9%]

–0.016

2.3%

–0.015

2.4%

–0.007

1.1%

–0.006

1.0%

(–2.33)

[1.3%]

(–2.09)

[1.5%]

(–2.12)

[0.6%]

(–1.86)

[0.7%]

–0.372

55.0%

–0.288

46.7%

–0.379

56.1%

–0.292

47.3%

(–4.88)

[13.8%]

(–4.70)

[15%]

(–5.16)

[13.2%]

(–4.72)

[15.2%]

0.017

–2.5%

0.016

–2.6%

0.017

–2.5%

0.016

–2.6%

(0.84)

[3.3%]

(0.96)

[3.6%]

(0.89)

[3%]

(0.93)

[3.6%]

–0.439

64.8%

–0.351

56.9%

–0.428

63.2%

–0.335

54.2%

(–5.45) [15.6% ]

(–5.14)

[16.6%]

(–5.69)

[14.1%]

(–5.06)

[16.2%]

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Decomposition into wealth/income effects and residual effects Assume structural model, with wealth w and variable of interest x, both uncorrelated with ε, y = bw + cx + ε

(1)

where Cov (w , x) = ρ and Var (x) = 1, Var (w ) = 1. Main regression in the paper y = βx + e

i.e.,

β = bρ + c

(2)

Share of effect of x in (2) that comes through w θ =1−

c β

(3)

One could easily get θ from estimating (1) and (2), but paper does something different. Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Decomposition into wealth/income effects and residual effects Decomposition regressions y = δw + u

i.e.,

δ = b + cρ

w = τx + v

i.e., τ = ρ

(4) (5)

Measure of wealth effect share in the paper ω=

δτ b + cρ =ρ β bρ + c

(6)

Consider some special cases Entirely a wealth channel effect, c = 0: ω = 1 and θ = 1. OK. No wealth channel effect, b = 0: ω = ρ2 but θ = 0

Thus, current decomposition method overstates wealth/income channel effect. Why not just run regression (1)? Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Additional concerns about decomposition

But also some concerns that wealth effects could be under-estimated: Not just current but also lagged wealth matters in participation cost models with fixed participation costs Functional form: Not necessarily linear in level of wealth

(As the authors recognize) asset accumulation is not exogenous with regards to participation. Difficult to address. Alternative tests, methods?

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Alternative test: Look at portfolio choice variables for which wealth effects are less important

Conditional on participation, wealth effects are generally much weaker for risky asset share Do past labor market experiences affect risky assets share? Perhaps even more detailed measures of riskiness: Compute volatility, beta of portfolio?

If so, this would support idea that labor market experiences affect portfolio choice through channels other than wealth/income.

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

A few (half-baked) ideas on how to dig deeper on the channels

Trust: Financial market participation vs. stock market participation Macroeconomic pessimism: Higher (precautionary) savings? Beliefs about labor income-stock market covariance: Portfolio composition shifted towards assets that are safer w.r.t. labor income risk?

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Summary

Basic finding on correlation between labor market experiences and stock market participation is clear and strong More work needed to establish to what extent the effect of labor market experiences is “just” a wealth/income effect Potential to enhance contribution of paper by taking broader perspective on portfolio choice and savings decisions

Stefan Nagel

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences and Portfolio ...

Discussion of Labor Market Experiences. Decomposition into wealth/income effects and residual effects. Results suggest a big part of the labor market effect is explained by unemployment → assets/income → stock market participation channel the standard errors for the shares of total effects, reported in brackets, are based ...

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