Discussion paper Financial Markets

DP17499 Measuring Valuation of Liquidity with Penalized Withdrawals

We propose using penalized withdrawals from retirement savings accounts, identified
from U.S. tax records, as a revealed-preference tool to analyze households’ valuation of
liquidity. A simple dynamic model formalizes the notion that the prevalence of withdrawals can be used to characterize American households’ valuation of liquidity over
time and space. Over time, we find that declines in household income lead to sudden,
large, and persistent jumps in the probability of penalized withdrawals, providing evidence that shocks are imperfectly insured and that households have high valuation of
liquidity. Across space, we show that both local economic conditions and persistent
household characteristics play an important role, with the average valuation of liquid-
ity being higher in financially underdeveloped areas as well as in black communities,
consistent with them being marginalized from the credit market. Applying our tool to
the Great Recession, we further find that more affected areas saw larger increases in
penalized withdrawals, likely driven by tightening of local credit conditions. Overall,
our analysis offers a new tool to study the valuation of liquidity, and our results point
to sizable welfare gains from social insurance policies targeted at both households and
locations over time.


Coyne, D, I Fadlon and T Porzio (eds) (2022), “DP17499 Measuring Valuation of Liquidity with Penalized Withdrawals”, CEPR Press Discussion Paper No. 17499. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17499