Mi Luo

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Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, Emory University.
Also a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

CV (Updated October 2018).

Address: 1602 Fishburne Dr., Atlanta, GA 30309, USA

Research Interests

Macroeconomics, household finance, and labor economics


2. Earnings Inequality and Other Determinants of Wealth Inequality, with Jess Benhabib and Alberto Bisin. January 2017. Prepared for the American Economic Review Papers & Proceedings.

Working Papers

Intergenerational wealth transmission occurs not only at the end of life (bequests) but also throughout the life cycle (inter-vivos transfers). This paper documents that bequests are largely accidental, and inter-vivos transfers are intentional and negatively correlated with the recipient’s current income. This paper builds and estimates a general-equilibrium lifecycle model of intergenerational wealth transfers, where parents potentially value inter-vivos transfers differently from bequests. The model renders a response in inter-vivos transfers to estate tax changes close to the data. Under the current U.S. tax codes, increasing the estate tax does not necessarily reduce top wealth inequality. Instead, it could potentially increase inequality with a sufficiently strong response in inter-vivos transfers. Such a response is partly caused by differential tax treatment between inter-vivos transfers and bequests, and partly amplified by how parents value inter-vivos transfers differently from bequests.

2. Wealth Distribution and Social Mobility in the U.S.: A Quantitative Approach, with Jess Benhabib and Alberto Bisin. December 2015. NBER WP #21721. revised and resubmitted to the American Economic Review.

We build and estimate a life-cycle consumption-savings model with three critical factors driving wealth inequality and intergenerational mobility in wealth. The three factors are a skewed income distribution, heterogeneous returns to savings, and differential saving rates in wealth through a bequest motive. All three factors are necessary, but for different reasons.

3. Inter-generational Transfers and Precautionary Savings, with John Ameriks, Joseph BriggsAndrew Caplin, and Chris Tonetti. (one of the Vanguard Research Initiative projects, coming soon!)

We provide new measurement for inter-vivos transfers by surveying Vanguard clients and build a new model of inter-generational transmission of wealth. Parents want to save in order to help with financial need from children through timely inter-vivos transfers. This precautionary savings motive turns out more important than the end-of-life bequest motive in accounting for retirement savings.

Using national representative samples of the elderly in US and China, we find that people with lower socio-economic status and poorer health are relatively less likely to realize how unhealthy they are and this overconfidence is associated with no insurance participation. Accurate health information provided through physical examinations induces relatively higher participation among the overconfident people afterwards.


Work in Progress

1. The Evolution of Wealth Inequality and Social Mobility in the U.S., with Jess BenhabibAlberto Bisin
Barış Kaymak, and Markus Poschke.
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