NBER Working Papers by Francisco Gomes

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Working Papers

August 2012Risk and Returns to Education
with Jeffrey Brown, Chichun Fang: w18300
We analyze the returns to education in a life-cycle framework that incorporates risk preferences, earnings volatility (including unemployment), and a progressive income tax and social insurance system. We show that such a framework significantly reduces the measured gains from education relative to simple present-value calculations, although the gains remain significant. For example, for a range of preference parameters, we find that individuals should be willing to pay 300 to 500 (200 to 250) thousand dollars to obtain a college (high school) degree in order to benefit from the 32 to 42 percent (20 to 38 percent) increase in annual certainty-equivalent consumption. We also explore how the measured value of education varies with preference parameters, by gender, and across time. In contras...
April 2008Optimal Life-Cycle Investing with Flexible Labor Supply: A Welfare Analysis of Life-Cycle Funds
with Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Luis M. Viceira: w13966
We investigate optimal consumption, asset accumulation and portfolio decisions in a realistically calibrated life-cycle model with flexible labor supply. Our framework allows for wage rate uncertainly, variable labor supply, social security benefits and portfolio choice over safe bonds and risky equities. Our analysis reinforces prior findings that equities are the preferred asset for young households, with the optimal share of equities generally declining prior to retirement. However, variable labor materially alters pre-retirement portfolio choice by significantly raising optimal equity holdings. Using this model, we also investigate the welfare costs of constraining portfolio allocations over the life cycle to mimic popular default investment choices in defined-contribution pension pl...
January 2007The Excess Burden of Government Indecision
with Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Luis M. Viceira: w12859
Governments are known for procrastinating when it comes to resolving painful policy problems. Whatever the political motives for waiting to decide, procrastination distorts economic decisions relative to what would arise with early policy resolution. In so doing, it engenders excess burden. This paper posits, calibrates, and simulates a life cycle model with earnings, lifespan, investment return, and future policy uncertainty. It then measures the excess burden from delayed resolution of policy uncertainty. The first uncertain policy we consider concerns the level of future Social Security benefits. Specifically, we examine how an agent would respond to learning in advance whether she will experience a major Social Security benefit cut starting at age 65. We show that having to wait to lea...
March 1999Investing Retirement Wealth: A Life-Cycle Model
with John Y. Campbell, Joao F. Cocco, Pascal J. Maenhout: w7029
If household portfolios are constrained by borrowing and short-sales restrictions asset markets, then alternative retirement savings systems may affect household welfare by relaxing these constraints. This paper uses a calibrated partial-equilibrium model of optimal life-cycle portfolio choice to explore the empirical relevance of these issues. In a benchmark case, we find ex-ante welfare gains equivalent to a 3.7% increase in consumption from the investment of half of retirement wealth in the equity market. The main channel through which these gains are realized is that the higher average return on equities permits a lower Social Security tax rate on younger households, which helps households smooth their consumption over the life cycle. There is a smaller welfare gain of 0.5% of cons...

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