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Financial Fragility and Economic Performance

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  • Ben Bernanke
  • Mark Gertler

Abstract

Applied macroeconomists (e.g., Eckstein and Sinai (1986)) have stressed the role of financial variables, such as firm balance sheet positions, in the determination of investment spending and output. Our paper presents a formal analysis of this link. We develop a model of the process of investment finance in which there is asymmetric information between borrowers and lenders about the quality of investment projects and about the borrower's effort. In this model, the cost of external investment finance under the optimal contract is higher, the worse the borrower's balance sheet position (i.e., the lower his net worth). In general equilibrium, the lower is borrower net worth, the further the number of projects initiated and the average quality of undertaken projects will be from the unconstrained first-best. We characterize a "financially fragile" situation as one in which balance sheets are so weak that the economy experiences substantial underinvestment, misallocation of investment resources, and possibly even a complete investment collapse. Our policy analysis suggests that, under some circumstances, government "bailouts" of insolvent debtors may be a reasonable alternative in periods of extreme financial fragility.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2318.

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Date of creation: Jul 1987
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Publication status: published as Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 105, No. 1, pp. 87-114, February 1990.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2318

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  1. Edward C Prescott & Robert M Townsend, 2010. "Pareto Optima and Competitive Equilibria With Adverse Selection and Moral Hazard," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2069, David K. Levine.
  2. Williamson, Stephen D, 1987. "Financial Intermediation, Business Failures, and Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(6), pages 1196-1216, December.
  3. Stewart C. Myers & Nicholas S. Majluf, 1984. "Corporate Financing and Investment Decisions When Firms Have InformationThat Investors Do Not Have," NBER Working Papers 1396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Boyd, John H. & Prescott, Edward C., 1986. "Financial intermediary-coalitions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 211-232, April.
  5. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
  6. Otto Eckstein & Allen Sinai, 1986. "The Mechanisms of the Business Cycle in the Postwar Era," NBER Chapters, in: The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change, pages 39-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicholas S., 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 187-221, June.
  8. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1986. "The Allocation of Credit and Financial Collapse," NBER Working Papers 1786, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Sappington, David, 1983. "Limited liability contracts between principal and agent," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-21, February.
  10. Smith, Bruce, 1983. "Limited Information, Credit Rationing, and Optimal Government Lending Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 305-18, June.
  11. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in Propagation of the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 257-76, June.
  12. Diamond, Douglas W, 1984. "Financial Intermediation and Delegated Monitoring," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(3), pages 393-414, July.
  13. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicolás S., 1945-, 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Working papers 1523-84., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  14. Mishkin, Frederic S., 1978. "The Household Balance Sheet and the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(04), pages 918-937, December.
  15. Farmer, Roger E A, 1984. "A New Theory of Aggregate Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(5), pages 920-30, December.
  16. Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
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  1. Debunking Keen on Bernanke: The issue of debt deflation
    by Matt Nolan in TVHE on 2012-09-12 03:47:20
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