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Inattention to Rare Events

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  • Mackowiak, Bartosz Adam
  • Wiederholt, Mirko

Abstract

Why were people so unprepared for the global financial crisis, the European debt crisis, and the Fukushima nuclear accident? To address this question, we study a model in which agents make state-contingent plans - think about actions in different contingencies - subject to the constraint that agents can process only a limited amount of information. The model predicts that agents are unprepared in a state when the state has a low probability, the optimal action in that state is uncorrelated with the optimal action in normal times, and actions are strategic complements. We then compare the equilibrium allocation of attention to the efficient allocation of attention. We characterize analytically the conditions under which society would be better off if agents thought more carefully about optimal actions in rare events.

Suggested Citation

  • Mackowiak, Bartosz Adam & Wiederholt, Mirko, 2011. "Inattention to Rare Events," CEPR Discussion Papers 8626, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8626
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    11. Olivier Coibion & Yuriy Gorodnichenko, 2015. "Information Rigidity and the Expectations Formation Process: A Simple Framework and New Facts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(8), pages 2644-2678, August.
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    14. Woodford, Michael, 2009. "Information-constrained state-dependent pricing," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(S), pages 100-124.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bartosz Mackowiak & Mirko Wiederholt, 2012. "Information Processing and Limited Liability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(3), pages 30-34, May.
    2. Luigi Iovino & Jennifer La'O & George-Marios Angeletos, 2016. "Efficiency and Policy with Endogenous Learning," 2016 Meeting Papers 229, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. Pasten, Ernesto & Schoenle, Raphael, 2016. "Rational inattention, multi-product firms and the neutrality of money," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 1-16.
    4. Hur, Sewon & Kondo, Illenin O., 2016. "A theory of rollover risk, sudden stops, and foreign reserves," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 44-63.
    5. Chen, Heng & Luo, Yulei & Pei, Guangyu, 2015. "Attention misallocation, social welfare and policy implications," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 37-57.
    6. Donatella Baiardi & Marco Magnani & Mario Menegatti, 2020. "The theory of precautionary saving: an overview of recent developments," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 513-542, June.
    7. Hefti, Andreas, 2018. "Limited attention, competition and welfare," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 178(C), pages 318-359.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    disasters; efficiency; rare events; rational inattention;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General

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