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The Equity Premium: Why is it a Puzzle?

  • 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
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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. Rajnish Mehra & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "The Equity Premium in Retrospect," NBER Working Papers 9525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Prescott, Edward C & Mehra, Rajnish, 1980. "Recursive Competitive Equilibrium: The Case of Homogeneous Households," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(6), pages 1365-79, September.
  3. 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.
  4. Andrew B. Abel, 1990. "Asset Prices under Habit Formation and Catching up with the Joneses," NBER Working Papers 3279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Storesletten, Kjetil & Telmer, Chris & Yaron, Amir, 2001. "Asset Pricing with Idiosyncratic Risk and Overlapping Generations," CEPR Discussion Papers 3065, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. 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.
  7. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1995. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Shmuel Kandel & Robert F. Stambaugh, 1991. "Asset Returns and Intertemporal Preferences," NBER Working Papers 3633, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Aiyagari, S. Rao & Gertler, Mark, 1990. "Asset Returns With Transactions Costs And Uninsured Individual Risk: A Stage Iii Exercise," Working Papers 90-43, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  10. S Rao Aiyagari & Mark Gertler, 1997. "Asset Returns with transaction costs and uninsured individual risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 648, David K. Levine.
  11. Andrew Abel, . "Stock Prices Under Time-Varying Dividend Risk: An Exact Solution in an Infinite-Horizon General Equilibrium Model," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 15-88, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  12. Constantinides, George M & Duffie, Darrell, 1996. "Asset Pricing with Heterogeneous Consumers," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(2), pages 219-40, April.
  13. 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 443-87, June.
  14. George M. Constantinides, 2002. "Rational Asset Prices," NBER Working Papers 8826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Constantinides, G.M. & Donalson, J.B. & Mehra, R., 1997. "Junior Can't Borrow: A New Perspective on the Equity Premium Puzzle," Papers 97-24, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  16. 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 1135-71, December.
  17. 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.
  18. Lars Peter Hansen & Ravi Jagannathan, 1990. "Implications of security market data for models of dynamic economies," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 29, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  19. G. Constantinides, 1990. "Habit formation: a resolution of the equity premium puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1397, David K. Levine.
  20. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2001. "Taxes, Regulations, and Asset Prices," NBER Working Papers 8623, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. 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.
  22. John Y. Campbell, 2002. "Consumption-Based Asset Pricing," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1974, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  23. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1978. "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1429-45, November.
  24. 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.
  25. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 1997. "Market Frictions, Savings Behavior, And Portfolio Choice," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 76-101, January.
  26. 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.
  27. R. Mehra & E. Prescott, 2010. "The equity premium: a puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1401, David K. Levine.
  28. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
  29. 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.
  30. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1988. "The equity risk premium: A solution?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 133-136, July.
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