IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Uncertainty Traps

  • Pablo Fajgelbaum
  • Edouard Schaal
  • Mathieu Taschereau-Dumouchel

We develop a theory of endogenous uncertainty and business cycles in which short-lived shocks can generate long-lasting recessions. In the model, higher uncertainty about fundamentals discourages investment. Since agents learn from the actions of others, information flows slowly in times of low activity and uncertainty remains high, further discouraging investment. The unique equilibrium of this economy displays uncertainty traps: self-reinforcing episodes of high uncertainty and low activity. While the economy recovers quickly after small shocks, large temporary shocks may have nearly permanent effects on the level of activity. The economy is subject to an information externality but uncertainty traps may remain even in the efficient allocation. We extend our framework to include additional features of standard business cycle models and show, in that context, that uncertainty traps can substantially worsen recessions and increase their duration.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Access to the full text is generally limited to series subscribers, however if the top level domain of the client browser is in a developing country or transition economy free access is provided. More information about subscriptions and free access is available at Free access is also available to older working papers.

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19973.

in new window

Date of creation: Mar 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19973
Note: EFG
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Bachmann, Ruediger & Bayer, Christian, 2009. "Firm-specific productivity risk over the business cycle: facts and aggregate implications," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2009,15, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  2. Greg Kaplan & Guido Menzio, 2012. "Shopping Externalities and Self-Fulfilling Unemployment Fluctuations," PIER Working Paper Archive 12-048, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. David Frankel & Ady Pauzner, 2000. "Resolving Indeterminacy In Dynamic Settings: The Role Of Shocks," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(1), pages 285-304, February.
  4. Sylvain Leduc & Zheng Liu, 2012. "Uncertainty shocks are aggregate demand shocks," Working Paper Series 2012-10, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  5. Francois Gourio & Anil K Kashyap, 2007. "Investment Spikes: New Facts and a General Equilibrium Exploration," NBER Working Papers 13157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. R?diger Bachmann & Steffen Elstner & Eric R. Sims, 2013. "Uncertainty and Economic Activity: Evidence from Business Survey Data," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 217-49, April.
  7. George-Marios Angeletos & Christian Hellwig & Alessandro Pavan, 2007. "Dynamic Global Games of Regime Change: Learning, Multiplicity, and the Timing of Attacks," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 711-756, 05.
  8. Ruediger Bachmann & Giuseppe Moscarini, 2011. "Business Cycles and Endogenous Uncertainty," 2011 Meeting Papers 36, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  9. Gale, D. & Chamley, C., 1992. "Information Revelation and Strategic Delay in a Model of Investment," Papers 10, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  10. Hernan Moscoso Boedo & Pablo D'Erasmo, 2013. "Intangibles and Endogenous Firm Volatility over the Business Cycle," 2013 Meeting Papers 97, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Christophe Chamley, 1999. "Coordinating Regime Switches," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 869-905, August.
  12. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
  13. Caplin, Andrew & Leahy, John V, 1993. "Sectoral Shocks, Learning, and Aggregate Fluctuations," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(4), pages 777-94, October.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Canadian Macro Study Group

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19973. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.