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Toward a Theory of Rigidities

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  • Bruce C. Greenwald
  • Joseph E. Stiglitz

Abstract

This paper presents a theory of rigidity, or more properly inertia, in the responses of economic variables to changing environments. The theory rests on three fundamental assumptions: (1) that firms are risk averse, (2) that firms are uncertain of the impacts of changing decision variables and (3) that this uncertainty increases with the size of deviations in decision variables from appropriately defined past level. Under these circumstances an optimal portfolio of incremental decision variable adjustments exists which (a) takes variance minimizing adoptions to environmental change as a point of departure and then (b) is weighted in favor of changes in variables whose effects are less uncertain. In considering price and quantity adjustments, this implies that price and wage adjustments should largely incorporate expected inflation and, from that point, should be small relative to quantity adjustments, since in most situations the uncertainties associated with the consequences of quantity adjustment should be smaller than those associated with price adjustments.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2938.

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Date of creation: Feb 1990
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Publication status: published as The American Economic Review, Vol. 79, No. 2, pp. 364-369, (May 1989).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2938

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  1. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "Theories of Wage Rigidity," NBER Working Papers 1442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Oliver Jean Blanchard, 1987. "Aggregate and Individual Price Adjustment," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 18(1), pages 57-122.
  3. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz & Andrew Weiss, 1984. "Informational Imperfections in the Capital Market and Macro-Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 1335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Staff Report 102, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. 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.
  7. Taylor, John B, 1980. "Aggregate Dynamics and Staggered Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 1-23, February.
  8. Fischer, Stanley, 1977. "Long-Term Contracts, Rational Expectations, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 191-205, February.
  9. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1985. "A Near-rational Model of the Business Cycle, with Wage and Price Intertia," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(5), pages 823-38, Supp..
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Cited by:
  1. Riveros, Luis A. & Bouton, Lawrence, 1991. "Efficiency wage theory, labormarkets, and adjustment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 731, The World Bank.
  2. Gerd Weinrich & Luca Colombo, 2001. "The Phillips Curve as a Long-Run Phenomenon in a Macroeconomic Model with Complex Dynamics," CeNDEF Workshop Papers, January 2001 1B.3, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Center for Nonlinear Dynamics in Economics and Finance.
  3. Antonelli, Cristiano, 1997. "The economics of path-dependence in industrial organization," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 643-675, October.

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