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Welfare Cost of Business Cycles When Markets Are Incomplete

This paper analyzes the welfare effects of business cycles when workers face uninsurable idiosyncratic labor income risk that has a cyclical component. In accordance with the recent literature, this paper assumes that eliminating business cycles amounts to integrating out aggregate shocks (the integration principle) and that idiosyncratic shocks and aggregate shocks are stochastically independent (the independence assumption). This paper provides two arguments why the previous literature has underestimated the welfare costs of business cycles. First, the welfare cost of business cycles are in general indeterminate, and the previous literature has only reported the lower bound that is consistent with the data. In a simple example calibrated to match the observed cyclical variations in displacement probabilities, the lower bound is .35 percent of average consumption and the upper bound is 1.39 percent (using log-utility). Second, the previous literature has only focused on cyclical variations in job displacement (unemployment) probabilities, but neglected cyclical variations in the average income loss of displaced workers. In a simple calibrated example, the introduction of cyclical variations in the average income loss of displaced workers increases the lower bound from .35 percent of average consumption to .94 percent and the upper bound from 1.39 percent to 1.89 percent (again for log-utility)

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Paper provided by Brown University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2004-08.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:bro:econwp:2004-08
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912

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  1. Jacobson, Louis S & LaLonde, Robert J & Sullivan, Daniel G, 1993. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 685-709, September.
  2. Alvarez, F. & Jermann, U.J., 2000. "Using Asset Prices to Measure the Cost of Business Cycles," Weiss Center Working Papers 00-1, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  3. Christopher D. Carroll, 1996. "Buffer-Stock Saving and the Life Cycle/Permanent Income Hypothesis," NBER Working Papers 5788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Krebs, Tom, 2004. "Testable implications of consumption-based asset pricing models with incomplete markets," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1-2), pages 191-206, February.
  5. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 187-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Beaudry, Paul & Pages, Carmen, 2001. "The cost of business cycles and the stabilization value of unemployment insurance," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1545-1572, August.
  7. Christopher D. Carroll & Andrew A. Samwick, 1995. "The Nature of Precautionary Wealth," NBER Working Papers 5193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Joao Gomes & Jeremy Greenwood & Sergio T. Rebelo, 2001. "Equilibrium Unemployment," RCER Working Papers 479, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  9. Tom Krebs, 2003. "Growth and Welfare Effects of Business Cycles in Economies with Idiosyncratic Human Capital Risk," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 6(4), pages 846-868, October.
  10. Gadi Barlevy, 2004. "The Cost of Business Cycles Under Endogenous Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(4), pages 964-990, September.
  11. Alon Brav & George M. Constantinides & Christopher C. Geczy, 1999. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers and Limited Participation: Empirical Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Attanasio, Orazio P., 1999. "Consumption," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 741-812 Elsevier.
  13. 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.
  14. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 2003. "Macroeconomic Priorities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 1-14, March.
  15. Imrohoruglu, Ayse, 1989. "Cost of Business Cycles with Indivisibilities and Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1364-83, December.
  16. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1991. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 665-88, August.
  17. Tom Krebs, 2003. "Human Capital Risk And Economic Growth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 709-744, May.
  18. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris I. & Yaron, Amir, 2001. "The welfare cost of business cycles revisited: Finite lives and cyclical variation in idiosyncratic risk," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1311-1339.
  19. Per Krusell & Toshihiko Mukoyama & Aysegul Sahin & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., 2008. "Appendices for "Revisiting the Welfare Effects of Eliminating Business Cycles"," Technical Appendices 08-211, Review of Economic Dynamics.
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