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Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets

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  • Andrew Atkeson
  • Christopher Phelan

Abstract

In this paper, we measure the potential welfare gains from counter-cyclical policy in an economy with incomplete markets. In the course of conducting this measurement, we focus on two questions as central to the determination of those potential gains: (1) what is the likely effect of counter-cyclical policy on the nature of the income risk faced by individuals in the economy, and (2) what are the likely general equilibrium effects brought about as asset prices change due to the implementation of counter-cyclical policies? In taking up the first question, we see it as critical to distinguish whether the main effect of counter-cyclical policy is to directly reduce the income risk faced by each individual or is simply to reduce the correlation across individuals in the income risk that they face. We present a model of the wage and employment risk faced by individuals over the cycle in which the levels of those risks are chosen endogenously. On the basis of that model, we argue that the main effect of counter- cyclical policy aimed at reducing aggregate fluctuations may be simply to remove the correlation across individuals in the unemployment risk that they face. We then use asset price data to argue that in an incomplete markets framework, the potential welfare gains from counter-cyclical policy are close to zero.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4719.

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Date of creation: Apr 1994
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Publication status: published as Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets , Andrew Atkeson, Christopher Phelan. in NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9 , Fischer and Rotemberg. 1994
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4719

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  1. Attanasio, Orazio & Davis, Steven J, 1996. "Relative Wage Movements and the Distribution of Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1227-62, December.
  2. J. Bradford De Long & Lawrence H. Summers, . "How Does Macroeconomic Policy Matter?," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _130, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
  3. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 1993. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 4328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah J, 1996. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 443-87, June.
  5. Constantinides, George M & Duffie, Darrell, 1996. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 219-40, April.
  6. John H. Cochrane & Lars Peter Hansen, 1992. "Asset Pricing Explorations for Macroeconomics," NBER Working Papers 4088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Brainard, William & Dolbear, F T, 1971. "Social Risk and Financial Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(2), pages 360-70, May.
  8. J. Bradford DeLong & Lawrence H. Summers, 1988. "How Does Macroeconomic Policy Affect Output?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 433-494.
  9. repec:fth:harver:1418 is not listed on IDEAS
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