Three essays on income and wealth

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Fu, Chunling
This thesis consists of three empirical essays that study two independent topics: income under-reporting and immigrants’ portfolio allocations. The first essay forms Chapter 2 where we use data from the Survey of Financial Security and the Survey of Household Spending to estimate the incidence and extent of income underreporting in Canada. We find that roughly 20% to 40% of households underreport income by, on average, roughly $6,000 in 1999. In contrast to the existing literature, we show that self-employment status is a poor indicator of income under-reporting. We find that roughly 26% of non self-employed households under-report income, regardless of how self-employment status for households is determined. We profile income under-reporters and find that income underreporting is pervasive. We propose a simple ratio method of identifying income-under-reporting households for our second essay, Chapter 3. Our method is a straight-forward application of the Permanent Income Hypothesis; that is, households make consumption decisions based on their expected lifetime income not their reported lifetime income implying that consumption-to-income ratios should be higher for under-reporting households. We argue for using housing costs as the consumption measure in our approach. Our results confirm that households that under-report their income have mortgage-to-income ratios (MIR) or rent-to-income ratios (RIR) well in excess of those households that do not under-report. Using this finding, we propose using a Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) curve to determine the optimum cutoff threshold for MIR/RIR to detect under-reporters. Our third essay, Chapter 4, uses data from the 1999 and 2005 Survey of Financial Security to investigate the differences in portfolio allocations and values between immigrants and Canadian-born households. In general, we find that immigrants hold more real estate and less pension assets relative to Canadian-born households. Limited cohort analysis suggests that settled immigrants’ portfolio allocations are similar to that of Canadian-born households in contrast to recent immigrants’ portfolios. We also find evidence that the length of time living in Canada has a positive effect on ownership rate, share and value of both real estate and pension assets.
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