UCL Department of Economics


Reparations and Persistent Racial Wealth Gap: Loukas Karabarbounis

24 March 2021, 3:00 pm–4:00 pm

ucl sign on a building

Loukas Karabarbounis from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis will speak at this event as part of the Macro Seminar Series.

Event Information

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Wei Cui

Abstract: Reparations is a policy proposal aiming to address the wealth gap between Black and White households. We provide a first formal analysis of the economics of reparations using a long-run model of heterogeneous dynasties with an occupational choice and bequests. Our innovation is to introduce endogenous dispersion of beliefs about risky returns, reflecting differences in dynasties' experiences with entrepreneurship over time. Feeding the exclusion of Black dynasties from labor and capital markets as driving force, the model quantitatively reproduces current and historical racial gaps in wealth, income, entrepreneurship, mobility, and beliefs about risky returns. We use the model to evaluate reparations and find that transfers eliminating the racial gap in average wealth today do not lead to wealth convergence in the long run. The logic is that century-long exclusions lead Black dynasties to enter into reparations with pessimistic beliefs about risky returns and to forego investment opportunities. We conclude by showing that entrepreneurial subsidies are more e ective than wealth transfers in achieving racial wealth convergence in the long run.

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