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Toward a Theory of Rigidities


  • Greenwald, Bruce
  • Stiglitz, Joseph E


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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Suggested Citation

  • Greenwald, Bruce & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1989. "Toward a Theory of Rigidities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 364-369, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:79:y:1989:i:2:p:364-69

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Prescott, Edward C., 1986. "Theory ahead of business-cycle measurement," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 11-44, January.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Taylor, John B, 1980. "Aggregate Dynamics and Staggered Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 1-23, February.
    5. George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen, 1985. "A Near-Rational Model of the Business Cycle, with Wage and Price Inertia," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(Supplemen), pages 823-838.
    6. Greenwald, Bruce & Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1984. "Informational Imperfections in the Capital Market and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 194-199, May.
    7. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "Theories of Wage Rigidity," NBER Working Papers 1442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Colombo, Luca & Weinrich, Gerd, 2003. "The Phillips curve as a long-run phenomenon in a macroeconomic model with complex dynamics," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-26, October.
    2. Riveros, Luis A. & Bouton, Lawrence, 1991. "Efficiency wage theory, labormarkets, and adjustment," Policy Research Working Paper Series 731, The World Bank.
    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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