Worker Betas: Five Facts about Systematic Earnings Risk

Fatih Guvenen, Consultant

Sam Schulhofer-Wohl

Jae Song

Motohiro Yogo, Consultant

March 2017 | Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Staff Report 546

The magnitude of and heterogeneity in systematic earnings risk has important implications for various theories in macro, labor, and financial economics. Using administrative data, we document how the aggregate risk exposure of individual earnings to GDP and stock returns varies across gender, age, the worker’s earnings level, and industry. Aggregate risk exposure is U-shaped with respect to the earnings level. In the middle of the earnings distribution, aggregate risk exposure is higher for males, younger workers, and those in construction and durable manufacturing. At the top of the earnings distribution, aggregate risk exposure is higher for older workers and those in finance. Workers in larger employers are less exposed to aggregate risk, but they are more exposed to a common factor in employer-level earnings, especially at the top of the earnings distribution. Within an employer, higher-paid workers have higher exposure to employer-level risk than lower-paid workers.