Family and government insurance: Wage, earnings, and income risks in the Netherlands and the U.S.

Mariacristina De Nardi*, Giulio Fella, Marike Knoef, Gonzalo Paz-Pardo, Raun Ooijen, van

*Corresponding author for this work

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We document new facts about risk in male wages and earnings, household earnings, and pre- and post-tax income in the Netherlands and the United States. We find that, in both countries, earnings display important deviations from the typical assumptions of linearity and normality. Individual-level male wage and earnings risk is relatively high at the beginning and end of the working life, and for those in the lower and upper parts of the income distribution. Hours are the main driver of the negative skewness and, to a lesser extent, the high kurtosis of earnings changes. Even though we find no evidence of added-worker effects, the presence of spousal earnings reduces the variability of household income compared to that of male earnings. In the Netherlands, government transfers are a major source of insurance, substantially reducing the standard deviation, negative skewness, and kurtosis of income changes. In the U.S. the role of family insurance is much larger than in the Netherlands. Family and government insurance reduce, but do not eliminate non-linearities in household disposable income by age and previous earnings in either country.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104327
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Early online date2-Dec-2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2021


  • Wage risk
  • Self-insurance
  • Social insurance
  • Progressive taxation
  • Redistribution
  • Life-cycle

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