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Rare Events and the Equity Premium

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  • Robert J. Barro

Abstract

The allowance for low-probability disasters, suggested by Rietz (1988), explains a lot of puzzles related to asset returns and consumption. These puzzles include the high equity premium, the low risk-free rate, the volatility of stock returns, and the low values of typical macro-econometric estimates of the intertemporal elasticity of substitution for consumption. Another mystery that may be resolved is why expected real interest rates were low in the United States during major wars, such as World War II. This resolution works even though price-earnings ratios tended also to be low during the wars. This approach achieves these explanations while maintaining the tractable framework of a representative agent, time-additive and iso-elastic preferences, complete markets, and i.i.d. shocks to productivity growth. Perhaps just as puzzling as the high equity premium is why Rietz's framework has not been taken more seriously by researchers in macroeconomics and finance.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert J. Barro, 2005. "Rare Events and the Equity Premium," NBER Working Papers 11310, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11310
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    1. Romer, Christina D., 1988. "World War I and the postwar depression A reinterpretation based on alternative estimates of GNP," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 91-115, July.
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    5. Kocherlakota, Narayana R, 1990. " Disentangling the Coefficient of Relative Risk Aversion from the Elasticity of Intertemporal Substitution: An Irrelevance Result," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(1), pages 175-190, March.
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    13. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1988. "The equity risk premium: A solution?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 133-136, July.
    14. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott, 2002. "Great Depressions of the Twentieth Century," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 1-18, January.
    15. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 2003. "The equity premium in retrospect," Handbook of the Economics of Finance,in: G.M. Constantinides & M. Harris & R. M. Stulz (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Finance, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 889-938 Elsevier.
    16. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott(), 2007. "Great depressions of the twentieth century," Monograph, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, number 2007gdott.
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