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Uncertainty Traps

Author

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  • Pablo D. Fajgelbaum
  • Edouard Schaal
  • Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel

Abstract

We develop a theory of endogenous uncertainty and business cycles in which short-lived shocks can generate long-lasting recessions. In the model, higher uncertainty about fundamentals discourages investment. Since agents learn from the actions of others, information flows slowly in times of low activity and uncertainty remains high, further discouraging investment. The economy displays uncertainty traps: self-reinforcing episodes of high uncertainty and low activity. Although the economy recovers quickly after small shocks, large temporary shocks may have long-lasting effects on the level of activity. The economy is subject to an information externality but uncertainty traps may remain in the efficient allocation. Embedding the mechanism in a standard business cycle framework, we find that endogenous uncertainty increases the persistence of large recessions and improves the performance of the model in accounting for the Great Recession.

Suggested Citation

  • Pablo D. Fajgelbaum & Edouard Schaal & Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel, 2017. "Uncertainty Traps," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 132(4), pages 1641-1692.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:132:y:2017:i:4:p:1641-1692.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/qje/qjx021
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General

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