Jan 5, 2005

Volatility Transference...

...or better known as " Risk for the Rubes"
Brad DeLong has a nice roundup in this post  with the links to a series of insicisve articles in the LA Times dealing with the enormous transference of Income Volatility that has slowly been pushed downward on families and workers in recent years. I'd urge all to read them as this is an important and often overlooked aspect of any ' growth or returns' picture. Maybe we need to develop a Sharpe Ratio indicator for the average income -worker to help make sure one is getting a viable additional return for the extra risk being shoved onto them.
This is also what the whole SS Privitazation is really about too... laying off risk and volatility from the Gov to the common man, piling on more of the stuff all the time. Some people may forget that one of the resons we form governments to begin is to allay some such ' big problems' off onto a mass structure that may be the only way to handle them..... sort a caualty insurance for a society. republicans are all about removing this Insurance from the masses.
from the post :

The Times has tried to gauge the effect of this risk shift over the last 25 years by tracing the rising volatility of family income.

During the early '70s, the inflation-adjusted income of most of those in the middle of the economic spectrum — making about $50,000 a year in today's terms — bounced up and down by no more than $6,500 annually. By the beginning of this decade, those fluctuations had climbed to as much as $13,500, the newspaper's figures show. At the same time, the increase in volatility has been far greater for the working poor, while even top earners haven't been immune from ever-larger income swings.

To supplement these findings on income volatility, the paper looked at specific income-rattling experiences. In conjunction with Page and Stevens at UC Davis, it explored how frequently a representative sample of families was hit by any of seven common but potentially destabilizing events. They were: divorce or separation, a decline in a spouse's work hours, death of a spouse, birth of a child, retirement or disability of the main breadwinner, unemployment and serious illness.

The Times then assessed what fraction of the families touched by any of these episodes suffered a 50% or greater decline in their annual income. For every type of setback, the size of the group that took such a huge financial hit climbed substantially between the 1970s and 2000. This occurred even though the odds of at least one of these events befalling a family over the course of a decade remained fairly constant, at about 1 in 5.