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Heterogeneous Risk Preferences and the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles

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  • Sam Schulhofer-Wohl

    (Princeton University)

Abstract

I study the welfare cost of business cycles in a complete-markets economy where some people are more risk averse than others. Relatively more risk-averse people buy insurance against aggregate risk, and relatively less risk-averse people sell insurance. These trades reduce the welfare cost of business cycles for everyone. Indeed, the least risk-averse people benefit from business cycles. Moreover, even infinitely risk-averse people suffer only finite and, in my empirical estimates, very small welfare losses. In other words, when there are complete insurance markets, aggregate fluctuations in consumption are essentially irrelevant not just for the average person -- the surprising finding of Lucas (1987) -- but for everyone in the economy, no matter how risk averse they are. If business cycles matter, it is because they affect productivity or interact with uninsured idiosyncratic risk, not because aggregate risk per se reduces welfare. (Copyright: Elsevier)

Suggested Citation

  • Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2008. "Heterogeneous Risk Preferences and the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 11(4), pages 761-780, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:red:issued:07-133
    DOI: 10.1016/j.red.2008.01.003
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    9. Robert B. Barsky & F. Thomas Juster & Miles S. Kimball & Matthew D. Shapiro, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-579.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Michał Brzoza-Brzezina & Marcin Kolasa & Grzegorz Koloch & Krzysztof Makarski & Michał Rubaszek, 2013. "Monetary Policy In A Non-Representative Agent Economy: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(4), pages 641-669, September.
    3. Mr. Roberto Perrelli & Mr. Matthieu Bellon & Carlo Pizzinelli, 2020. "Household Consumption Volatility and Poverty Risk: Case Studies from South Africa and Tanzania," IMF Working Papers 2020/051, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Krzysztof MAKARSKI & Michal GRADZEWICZ, 2009. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Losing Autonomous Monetary Policy after the Euro Adoption in Poland," EcoMod2009 21500061, EcoMod.
    5. Per Krusell & Toshihiko Mukoyama & Aysegul Sahin & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., 2009. "Revisiting the Welfare Effects of Eliminating Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 12(3), pages 393-402, July.
    6. Giacomo De Giorgi & Michele Pellizzari, 2014. "Understanding Social Interactions: Evidence from the Classroom," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(579), pages 917-953, September.
    7. Colleen Carey & Stephen H. Shore, 2013. "From the Peaks to the Valleys: Cross-State Evidence on Income Volatility over the Business Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 549-562, May.
    8. Merlin, Giovanni Tondin, 2018. "Entrepreneurship, financial frictions and the welfare gains of business cycles," Textos para discussão 484, FGV EESP - Escola de Economia de São Paulo, Fundação Getulio Vargas (Brazil).
    9. Jonathan Heathcote & Kjetil Storesletten & Giovanni L. Violante, 2009. "Quantitative Macroeconomics with Heterogeneous Households," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 319-354, May.
    10. Pierre‐André Chiappori & Krislert Samphantharak & Sam Schulhofer‐Wohl & Robert M. Townsend, 2014. "Heterogeneity and risk sharing in village economies," Quantitative Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 5, pages 1-27, March.
    11. Ensar Yılmaz, 2014. "Welfare Costs of Business Cycles in Turkey," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 65(2), pages 195-211, May.
    12. Chiappori, Pierre-André & Reny, Philip J., 2016. "Matching to share risk," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 11(1), January.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Business cycles; Risk aversion; Risk sharing; Heterogeneity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

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