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Using Asset Prices to Measure the Cost of Business Cycles

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  • Alvarez, Fernando

    (U of Chicago)

  • Jermann, Urban J.

    (U of Pennsylvania and Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

Abstract

We propose a method to measure the welfare cost of economic fluctuations that does not require full specification of consumer preferences and instead uses asset prices. The method is based on the marginal cost of consumption fluctuations, the per unit benefit of a marginal reduction in consumption fluctuations expressed as a percentage of consumption. We show that this measure is an upper bound for the benefit of reducing all consumption fluctuations. We also clarify the link between the cost of consumption uncertainty, the equity premium, and the slope of the real term structure. To measure the marginal cost of fluctuations, we fit a variety of pricing kernels that reproduce key asset pricing statistics. We find that consumers would be willing to pay a very high price for a reduction in overall consumption uncertainty. However, for consumption fluctuations corresponding to business cycle frequencies, we estimate the marginal cost to be about 0.55% of lifetime consumption based on the period 1889-1997 and about 0.30% based on 1954-97.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School, Weiss Center in its series Working Papers with number 00-1.

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Date of creation: Aug 2000
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:upafin:00-1

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  1. Cochrane, John H. & Campbell, John, 1999. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Scholarly Articles 3119444, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Eric van Wincoop, 1998. "How big are potential welfare gains from international risksharing?," Staff Reports 37, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  3. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 187-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Jim Dolmas, 1998. "Risk Preferences and the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 646-676, July.
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  7. TallariniJr., Thomas D., 2000. "Risk-sensitive real business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 507-532, June.
  8. Campbell, John Y, 1996. "Understanding Risk and Return," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 298-345, April.
  9. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-43, June.
  10. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1991. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: An Empirical Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 263-86, April.
  11. Andrew B. Abel, 1998. "Risk Premia and Term Premia in General Equilibrium," NBER Working Papers 6683, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1994. "Evaluating risky consumption paths: The role of intertemporal substitutability," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 1471-1486, August.
  13. Arthur F. Burns & Wesley C. Mitchell, 1946. "Measuring Business Cycles," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number burn46-1.
  14. Christopher Otrok, 2000. "On Measuring the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1094, Econometric Society.
  15. R. Mehra & E. Prescott, 2010. "The equity premium: a puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1401, David K. Levine.
  16. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., . "On the Welfare Effects of Eliminating Business Cycles," GSIA Working Papers 243, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  17. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
  18. Jermann, Urban J., 1998. "Asset pricing in production economies," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 257-275, April.
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