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Liaisons Dangereuses: Increasing Connectivity, Risk Sharing, and Systemic Risk

  • Stefano Battiston
  • Domenico Delli Gatti
  • Mauro Gallegati
  • Bruce C. Greenwald
  • Joseph E. Stiglitz

We characterize the evolution over time of a network of credit relations among financial agents as a system of coupled stochastic processes. Each process describes the dynamics of individual financial robustness, while the coupling results from a network of liabilities among agents. The average level of risk diversification of the agents coincides with the density of links in the network. In addition to a process of diffusion of financial distress, we also consider a discrete process of default cascade, due to the re-evaluation of agents' assets. In this framework we investigate the probability of individual defaults as well as the probability of systemic default as a function of the network density. While it is usually thought that diversification of risk always leads to a more stable financial system, in our model a tension emerges between individual risk and systemic risk. As the number of counterparties in the credit network increases beyond a certain value, the default probability, both individual and systemic, starts to increase. This tension originates from the fact that agents are subject to a financial accelerator mechanism. In other words, individual financial fragility feeding back on itself may amplify the effect of an initial shock and lead to a full fledged systemic crisis. The results offer a simple possible explanation for the endogenous emergence of systemic risk in a credit network.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15611.

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Date of creation: Jan 2009
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Publication status: published as Battiston, Stefano & Delli Gatti, Domenico & Gallegati, Mauro & Greenwald, Bruce & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2012. "Liaisons dangereuses: Increasing connectivity, risk sharing, and systemic risk," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 1121-1141.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15611
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