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Subjective Uncertainty, Expectations, and Firm Behavior

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  • Stefan Lautenbacher

Abstract

Based on a new survey question in a large and representative panel of German firms, this paper introduces a novel measure of managers’ subjective uncertainty. I compare this measure of business uncertainty to respondents’ business expectations and document a strong negative relationship. However, the link is much weaker in bad times, since uncertainty is then persistently high – even when expectations are favorable. I continue by investigating the relative importance of uncertainty and expectations for corporate decisions. Exploiting information on firms’ investment and labor reactions to the COVID-19 crisis, I do not find evidence that uncertainty induced “wait and see” behavior. However, a deterioration in managers’ expectations and in their assessment of their firms’ business situation predicts investment deferral and a reduction in employment.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefan Lautenbacher, 2021. "Subjective Uncertainty, Expectations, and Firm Behavior," ifo Working Paper Series 349, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ifowps:_349
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    Cited by:

    1. Stefan Lautenbacher & Stefan Sauer & Klaus Wohlrabe, 2020. "Wie schwer fällt es Manager*innen, den Verlauf zukünftiger Geschäfte vorherzusagen? Das neue Maß der ifo Geschäftsunsicherheit," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 73(12), pages 32-35, December.
    2. Sebastian Link & Stefan Sauer, 2020. "»Lockdown light« lässt Kurzarbeit im November wieder etwas ansteigen," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 73(12), December.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subjective uncertainty; expectations; firms; survey data; corporate decisions; business cycles;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • D22 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Empirical Analysis
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E71 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on the Macro Economy

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