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Investment and Hysteresis

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  • Avinash Dixit

Abstract

It seems that firms behave contrary to the standard economic theory of investment. We observe that firms do not invest as soon a price rises above long-run average cost; instead firms wait until price rises substantially above long-run average cost. On the downside, firms stay in business for lengthy periods while absorbing operating losses, and price can fall substantially below average variable cost without inducing disinvestment or exit. Recent developments in the theory of investment under uncertainty offer an interesting new explanation. The new approach builds on an interesting analogy between real investments and options in financial markets: In the timing of investment, waiting has positive value because time brings more information about the future prospects of a project. This new approach suggests that textbook pictures of the dynamics of a competitive industry need to be substantially redrawn. More generally, it says that a great deal of inertia is optimal when dynamic decisions are being made in an uncertain environment.

Suggested Citation

  • Avinash Dixit, 1992. "Investment and Hysteresis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 107-132, Winter.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:6:y:1992:i:1:p:107-32
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.6.1.107
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.6.1.107
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dixit, Avinash, 1991. "Irreversible Investment with Price Ceilings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 541-557, June.
    2. Avinash Dixit, 1989. "Hysteresis, Import Penetration, and Exchange Rate Pass-Through," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 104(2), pages 205-228.
    3. Ben S. Bernanke, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106.
    4. Robert C. Merton, 2005. "Theory of rational option pricing," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Theory Of Valuation, chapter 8, pages 229-288 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    5. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1985. "Small Menu Costs and Large Business Cycles: A Macroeconomic Model of Monopoly," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 529-538.
    6. Pindyck, Robert S, 1991. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Investment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(3), pages 1110-1148, September.
    7. Dixit, Avinash K, 1989. "Entry and Exit Decisions under Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 620-638, June.
    8. Robert McDonald & Daniel Siegel, 1986. "The Value of Waiting to Invest," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(4), pages 707-727.
    9. 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.
    10. Samuel Bentolila & Giuseppe Bertola, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402.
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    JEL classification:

    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing

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