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Can a Representative Agent Model Represent a Heterogeneous Agent Economy?

  • Sungbae An

    (Singapore Management University)

  • Yongsung Chang

    (University of Rochester and Seoul National University)

  • Sun-Bin Kim

    (Department of Economics, Korea University)

Accounting for observed uctuations in aggregate employment, consumption, and real wage using optimality conditions of a representative household often requires preferences that are incompatible with economic priors (e.g., Mankiw, Rotemberg, and Summers, 1985). This discrepancy between the equilibrium model and the aggregate data is often viewed as evidence of the failure of labor-market clearing. We argue that such a conclusion is premature. We construct a model economy where all prices are exible and all markets clear at all times but household decisions are not readily aggregated because of incomplete capital markets and the indivisible nature of labor supply. We demonstrate that if we were to explain the model-generated aggregate time series using decisions of a "fictitious" stand-in household, such a household is likely to have a non-concave or unstable utility. Our analysis suggests that the representative agent model often fails to represent an equilibrium outcome of a heterogeneous agent economy.

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Paper provided by Institute of Economic Research, Korea University in its series Discussion Paper Series with number 0714.

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Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iek:wpaper:0714
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  1. Robert E. Hall, 1997. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations and the Allocation of Time," NBER Working Papers 5933, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-54, July.
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  7. Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2006. "From Individual To Aggregate Labor Supply: A Quantitative Analysis Based On A Heterogeneous Agent Macroeconomy ," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(1), pages 1-27, 02.
  8. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-85, December.
  9. Dunn, Kenneth B. & Singleton, Kenneth J., 1986. "Modeling the term structure of interest rates under non-separable utility and durability of goods," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 27-55, September.
  10. Scheinkman, Jose A & Weiss, Laurence, 1986. "Borrowing Constraints and Aggregate Economic Activity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(1), pages 23-45, January.
  11. Altonji, Joseph G, 1986. "Intertemporal Substitution in Labor Supply: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S176-S215, June.
  12. Richard Rogerson, 2010. "Indivisible Labor, Lotteries and Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 250, David K. Levine.
  13. Ghysels, Eric & Hall, Alastair, 1990. "Are consumption-based intertemporal capital asset pricing models structural?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1-2), pages 121-139.
  14. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  15. Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2007. "Heterogeneity and Aggregation: Implications for Labor-Market Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1939-1956, December.
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