Sylvain Catherine

Sylvain Catherine
  • Assistant Professor of Finance

Contact Information

  • office Address:

    2453 Steinberg-Dietrich Hall
    3620 Locust Walk
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

Research

  • Sylvain Catherine, Maxwell Miller, Natasha Sarin (Working), Relaxing Household Liquidity Constraints through Social Security.

    Abstract: More than a quarter of working-age households in the United States do not have sufficient savings to cover their expenditures after a month of unemployment. We explore proposals to alleviate financial distress arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. We show that giving workers early access to just 1% of their future Social Security benefits allows most households to maintain their current consumption for at least two months. Unlike other approaches (like early access to retirement accounts, stimulus relief checks, and expanded unemployment insurance), access to Social Security serves the needs of workers made vulnerable by the crisis, but does not increase the overall liabilities of the federal government or have distortionary effects on the labor market.

  • Sylvain Catherine, Natasha Sarin, Max Miller, Social Security and Trends in Inequality.

    Abstract: Recent influential work finds large increases in inequality in the U.S., based on measures of wealth concentration that notably exclude the value of social insurance programs. This paper revisits this conclusion by incorporating Social Security retirement benefits into measures of wealth inequality. Wealth inequality has not increased in the last three decades when Social Security is accounted for. When discounted at the risk-free rate, real Social Security wealth increased substantially from $5.6 trillion in 1989 to just over $42.0 trillion in 2016. When we adjust for systematic risk coming from the covariance of Social Security returns with the market portfolio, this increase remains sizable, growing from over $4.6 trillion in 1989 to $34.0 trillion in 2016. Consequently, by 2016, Social Security wealth represented 58% of the wealth of the bottom 90% of the wealth distribution. Redistribution through programs like Social Security increases the progressivity of the economy, and it is important that our estimates of wealth concentration reflect this.

  • Sylvain Catherine (Work In Progress), Countercyclical Income Risk and Portfolio Choices: Evidence from Sweden.

    Abstract: Using Swedish administrative panel data, we show that workers facing higher left-tail income risk when equity markets perform poorly are less likely to participate in the stock market and, conditional on participation, have lower equity shares. We call this measure of income risk “cyclical skewness” and show that it is a better predictor of equity holdings than other income risk measures such as variance, covariance, and countercyclical volatility. In line with theory, our findings are stronger at the beginning of the life-cycle, are not significant for individuals with substantial financial wealth, and are stronger when we focus on permanent income shocks. Finally, within their risky portfolio, workers put less weight on securities generating negative returns when their own income risk increases.

  • Sylvain Catherine (Working), Labor Market Risk and the Private Value of Social Security.

  • Sylvain Catherine, Countercyclical Income Risk and Portfolio Choices over the Life-Cycle (R&R Review of Financial Studies).

    Abstract: I structurally estimate a life-cycle model of portfolio choices that incorporates the relationship between stock market returns and the skewness of idiosyncratic income shocks. The cyclicality of skewness can explain (i) low stock market participation among young households with modest financial wealth and (ii) why the equity share of participants slightly increases until retirement. With an estimated relative risk aversion of 5 and yearly participation cost of $290, the model matches the evolution of wealth, of participation and of the conditional equity share over the life-cycle. Nonetheless, I find that cyclical skewness increases the equity premium by at most 0.5%.

  • Sylvain Catherine (Under Review), Keeping Options Open: What Motivates Entrepreneurs?.

    Abstract: Using French administrative data on job-creating entrepreneurs, I estimate a life-cycle model in which risk-averse individuals can start businesses and return to paid employment. I estimate that the unobserved benefits of entrepreneurship represent 6,100 pre-tax euros per year (some 15% of profits), which adds up to 67,000 euros over the average entrepreneurial spell. For new entrepreneurs, the option of returning to paid employment is worth 82,000 euros. The main source of option value is not the unobserved heterogeneity in entrepreneurial abilities but rather the random-walk component of productivity. Together, unobserved benefits and this option value explain 42% of firm creations.

  • Sylvain Catherine, Thomas Chaney, David Thesmar, David Sraer, Zongbo Huang (Under Revision), Quantifying Reduced-Form Evidence on Collateral Constraints (R&R Journal of Finance).

    Abstract: While a mature literature shows that credit constraints causally affect firm-level investment, this literature provides little guidance to quantify the economic effects implied by these findings. Our paper attempts to fill this gap in two ways. First, we use a structural model of firm dynamics with collateral constraints, and estimate the model to match the firm-level sensitivity of investment to collateral values. We estimate that firms can only pledge about 19% of their collateral value. Second, we embed this model in a general equilibrium framework and estimate that, relative to first-best, collateral constraints are responsible for 11% output losses.

Teaching

Past Courses

  • FNCE250 - VENT CAP & FNCE INNOVAT

    This course covers the finance of technological innovation, with a focus on thevaluation tools useful in the venture capital industry. These tools include the "venture capital method," comparables analysis, discounted cash flow analysis, contingent-claims analysis. The primary audience for this course is finance majors interested in careers in venture capital or in R&D-intensive companies in health care or information technology.

  • FNCE399 - INDEPENDENT STUDY

    Integrates the work of the various courses and familiarizes the student with the tools and techniques of research.

  • FNCE750 - VENT CAP & FNCE INNOVAT

    This course covers the finance of technological innovation, with a focus on the valuation tools useful in the venture capital industry. These tools include the "venture capital method," comparables analysis, discounted cash flow analysis, contingent-claims analysis. The primary audience for this course is finance majors interested in careers in venture capital or in R&D-intensive companies in health care or information technology.