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The Economic and Policy Consequences of Catastrophes

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  • Robert S. Pindyck

Abstract

What is the likelihood that the U.S. will experience a devastating catastrophic event over the next few decades – something that would substantially reduce the capital stock, GDP and wealth? What does the possibility of such an event imply for the behavior of economic variables such as investment, interest rates, and equity prices? And how much should society be willing to pay to reduce the probability or likely impact of such an event? We address these questions using a general equilibrium model that describes production, capital accumulation, and household preferences, and includes as an integral part the possible arrival of catastrophic shocks. Calibrating the model to average values of economic and financial variables yields estimates of the implied expected mean arrival rate and impact distribution of catastrophic shocks. We also use the model to calculate the tax on consumption society would accept to reduce the probability or impact of a shock.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert S. Pindyck, 2009. "The Economic and Policy Consequences of Catastrophes," Working Papers 0912, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:mee:wpaper:0912
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Guvenen, Fatih, 2006. "Reconciling conflicting evidence on the elasticity of intertemporal substitution: A macroeconomic perspective," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(7), pages 1451-1472, October.
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    6. Xavier Gabaix, 2012. "Variable Rare Disasters: An Exactly Solved Framework for Ten Puzzles in Macro-Finance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(2), pages 645-700.
    7. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "Intertemporal Substitution in Consumption," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 339-357, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • H25 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Business Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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