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Evaluating risky consumption paths: The role of intertemporal substitutability

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  • Obstfeld, Maurice

Abstract

In dynamic stochastic welfare comparisons, a failure clearly to distinguish between risk aversion and intertemporal substitutability can result in misleading assessments of the impact of risk aversion on the welfare costs of consumption-risk changes. The problem arises in any setting in which uncertainty is propagated over time, notably, but not exclusively, in economies with stochastic consumption trends. Regardless of the preference setup adopted, an increase in risk aversion amplifies the per-period costs of risks. The weights consumers use to cumulate the per-period costs of risks with persistent effects should, however, depend on intertemporal substitutability as well as on risk aversion. Under time-separable expected-utility preferences, an increase in the period utility function's curvature therefore alters the welfare effect of risk for reasons that in part are unrelated to risk aversion.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal European Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 38 (1994)
Issue (Month): 7 (August)
Pages: 1471-1486

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Handle: RePEc:eee:eecrev:v:38:y:1994:i:7:p:1471-1486

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  1. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-69, July.
  2. Kandel, Shmuel & Stambaugh, Robert F., 1991. "Asset returns and intertemporal preferences," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 39-71, February.
  3. repec:fth:harver:1435 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. John Y. Campbell & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1990. "Consumption, Income, and Interest Rates: Reinterpreting the Time Series Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2924, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 339-57, April.
  6. Harold L. Cole & Maurice Obstfeld, 1991. "Commodity Trade and International Risk Sharing: How Much Do Financial Markets Matter?," NBER Working Papers 3027, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Kocherlakota, Narayana R, 1990. " Disentangling the Coefficient of Relative Risk Aversion from the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution: An Irrelevance Result," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 175-90, March.
  8. Imrohoruglu, Ayse, 1989. "Cost of Business Cycles with Indivisibilities and Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1364-83, December.
  9. Ayse Imrohoroglu & Edward Prescott, 1991. "Seigniorage as a tax: a quantitative evaluation," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 462-482.
  10. Kenneth L. Judd, 1991. "Minimum weighted residual methods for solving aggregate growth models," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 49, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Dixit, Avinash & Rob, Rafael, 1994. "Risk-sharing, adjustment, and trade," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3-4), pages 263-287, May.
  12. Merton, Robert C., 1971. "Optimum consumption and portfolio rules in a continuous-time model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 373-413, December.
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