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Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets

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  • Andrew Atkeson
  • Christopher Phelan

Abstract

In this paper, we measure the potential welfare gains from counter-cyclical policy in an economy with incomplete markets. In the course of conducting this measurement, we focus on two questions as central to the determination of those potential gains: (1) what is the likely effect of counter-cyclical policy on the nature of the income risk faced by individuals in the economy, and (2) what are the likely general equilibrium effects brought about as asset prices change due to the implementation of counter-cyclical policies? In taking up the first question, we see it as critical to distinguish whether the main effect of counter-cyclical policy is to directly reduce the income risk faced by each individual or is simply to reduce the correlation across individuals in the income risk that they face. We present a model of the wage and employment risk faced by individuals over the cycle in which the levels of those risks are chosen endogenously. On the basis of that model, we argue that the main effect of counter- cyclical policy aimed at reducing aggregate fluctuations may be simply to remove the correlation across individuals in the unemployment risk that they face. We then use asset price data to argue that in an incomplete markets framework, the potential welfare gains from counter-cyclical policy are close to zero.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Working Papers 4719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4719
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    1. Constantinides, George M & Duffie, Darrell, 1996. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 219-240, April.
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    5. J. Bradford De Long & Lawrence H. Summers, "undated". "How Does Macroeconomic Policy Matter?," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _130, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E60 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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