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The Effects of Irreversibility and Uncertainty on Capital Accumulation

  • Andrew B. Abel
  • Janice B. Eberly

When investment decisions cannot be reversed and returns to capital are uncertain, the firm faces a higher user cost of capital than if it could reverse its decisions. This higher user cost tends to reduce the firm’s capital stock. Opposing this effect is the irreversibility constraint itself: when the constraint binds, the firm would like to sell capital but cannot. This effect tends to increase the firm’s capital stock. We show that a firm with irreversible investment may have a higher or a lower expected capital stock, even in the long run, compared to an otherwise identical firm with reversible investment. Furthermore, an increase in uncertainty can either increase or decrease the expected long-run capital stock under irreversibility relative to that under reversibility. However, changes in the expected growth rate of demand, the interest rate, the capital share in output, and the price elasticity of demand all have unambiguous effects.

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Paper provided by Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research in its series Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers with number 21-95.

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Handle: RePEc:fth:pennfi:21-95
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  1. Pindyck, Robert S, 1988. "Irreversible Investment, Capacity Choice, and the Value of the Firm," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 969-85, December.
  2. Andrew B. Abel & Janice C. Eberly, . "An Exact Solution for the Investment and Market Value of a Firm Facing Uncertainty, Adjustment Costs, and Irreversibility," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 12-93, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  3. Hartman, Richard, 1972. "The effects of price and cost uncertainty on investment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 258-266, October.
  4. Hopenhayn, Hugo & Rogerson, Richard, 1993. "Job Turnover and Policy Evaluation: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(5), pages 915-38, October.
  5. Dixit, Avinash K, 1989. "Entry and Exit Decisions under Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 620-38, June.
  6. Avinash K. Dixit & Robert S. Pindyck, 1994. "Investment under Uncertainty," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 5474, April.
  7. Pindyck, Robert S, 1993. "A Note on Competitive Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(1), pages 273-77, March.
  8. Bentolila, Samuel & Bertola, Giuseppe, 1990. "Firing Costs and Labour Demand: How Bad Is Eurosclerosis?," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(3), pages 381-402, July.
  9. Avinash Dixit, 1992. "Investment and Hysteresis," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(1), pages 107-132, Winter.
  10. Abel, Andrew B & Eberly, Janice C, 1996. "Optimal Investment with Costly Reversibility," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 581-93, October.
  11. Dumas, Bernard, 1991. "Super contact and related optimality conditions," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 675-685, October.
  12. Abel, Andrew B, 1983. "Optimal Investment under Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 228-33, March.
  13. Bertola, Giuseppe, 1991. "Labour Turnover Costs and Average Labour Demand," CEPR Discussion Papers 601, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. Dixit, Avinash, 1991. "Irreversible Investment with Price Ceilings," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 541-57, June.
  15. Bertola, Guiseppe & Caballero, Ricardo J, 1994. "Irreversibility and Aggregate Investment," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 223-46, April.
  16. Caballero, Ricardo J, 1991. "On the Sign of the Investment-Uncertainty Relationship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 279-88, March.
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