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The Equity Premium: Why is it a Puzzle?

Listed author(s):
  • Rajnish Mehra

This article takes a critical look at the equity premium puzzle the inability of standard intertemporal economic models to rationalize the statistics that have characterized U.S. financial markets over the past century. A summary of historical returns for the United States and other industrialized countries and an overview of the economic construct itself are provided. The intuition behind the discrepancy between model prediction and empirical data is explained. After detailing the research efforts to enhance the model's ability to replicate the empirical data, I argue that the proposed resolutions fail along crucial dimensions

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9512.

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Date of creation: Feb 2003
Publication status: published as 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.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9512
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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.
  2. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
  3. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, 2007. "Asset Pricing with Idiosyncratic Risk and Overlapping Generations," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 10(4), pages 519-548, October.
  4. Abel, Andrew B, 1990. "Asset Prices under Habit Formation and Catching Up with the Joneses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 38-42, May.
  5. Aiyagari, S. Rao & Gertler, Mark, 1991. "Asset returns with transactions costs and uninsured individual risk," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 311-331, June.
  6. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1995. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 110(1), pages 73-92.
  7. Abel, Andrew B., 1988. "Stock prices under time-varying dividend risk : An exact solution in an infinite-horizon general equilibrium model," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 375-393.
  8. George M. Constantinides & John B. Donaldson & Rajnish Mehra, 2002. "Junior Can't Borrow: A New Perspective on the Equity Premium Puzzle," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 117(1), pages 269-296.
  9. Hansen, Lars Peter & Jagannathan, Ravi, 1991. "Implications of Security Market Data for Models of Dynamic Economies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(2), pages 225-262, April.
  10. Bansal, Ravi & Coleman, Wilbur John, II, 1996. "A Monetary Explanation of the Equity Premium, Term Premium, and Risk-Free Rate Puzzles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(6), pages 1135-1171, December.
  11. Mankiw, N. Gregory, 1986. "The equity premium and the concentration of aggregate shocks," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 211-219, September.
  12. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1994. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," CRSP working papers 412, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
  13. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
  14. Kandel, Shmuel & Stambaugh, Robert F., 1991. "Asset returns and intertemporal preferences," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 39-71, February.
  15. Edward C. Prescott & Rajnish Mehra, 2005. "Recursive Competitive Equilibrium: The Case Of Homogeneous Households," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Theory Of Valuation, chapter 11, pages 357-371 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
  16. 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.
  17. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah J, 1996. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(3), pages 443-487, June.
  18. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-543, June.
  19. Weil, Philippe, 1989. "The equity premium puzzle and the risk-free rate puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 401-421, November.
  20. Breeden, Douglas T., 1979. "An intertemporal asset pricing model with stochastic consumption and investment opportunities," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 265-296, September.
  21. John B. Donaldson & Rajnish Mehra, 1984. "Comparative Dynamics of an Equilibrium Intertemporal Asset Pricing Model," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(3), pages 491-508.
  22. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1978. "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1429-1445, November.
  23. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2001. "Taxes, Regulations, and Asset Prices," NBER Working Papers 8623, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Aiyagari, S. Rao & Gertler, Mark, 1991. "Asset returns with transactions costs and uninsured individual risk," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 311-331, June.
  25. Campbell, John Y., 2003. "Consumption-based asset pricing," 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 13, pages 803-887 Elsevier.
  26. George M. Constantinides, 2002. "Rational Asset Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(4), pages 1567-1591, 08.
  27. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1988. "The equity risk premium: A solution?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 133-136, July.
  28. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 1997. "Market Frictions, Savings Behavior, And Portfolio Choice," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 76-101, January.
  29. Nicholas Barberis & Ming Huang & Tano Santos, 2001. "Prospect Theory and Asset Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 1-53.
  30. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 1996. "The Equity Premium: It's Still a Puzzle," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(1), pages 42-71, March.
  31. LeRoy,Stephen F. & Werner,Jan, 2001. "Principles of Financial Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521586054, October.
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