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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. George M. Constantinides, 2002. "Rational Asset Prices," NBER Working Papers 8826, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. 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.
  3. Abel, A.B., 1990. "Asset Prices Under Habit Formation And Catching Up With The Joneses," Weiss Center Working Papers 1-90, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  4. George M. Constantinidies & John B. Donaldson & Rajnish Mehra, 1998. "Junior Can't Borrow: A New Perspective on the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 6617, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 1995. "The equity premium: it's still a puzzle," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 102, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1988. "The equity risk premium: A solution?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 133-136, July.
  7. 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.
  8. N. Gregory Mankiw, 1986. "The Equity Premium and the Concentration of Aggregate Shocks," NBER Working Papers 1788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Prescott, Edward C & Mehra, Rajnish, 1980. "Recursive Competitive Equilibrium: The Case of Homogeneous Households," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(6), pages 1365-1379, September.
  10. Shlomo Benartzi & Richard H. Thaler, 1993. "Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle," NBER Working Papers 4369, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kjetil Storesletten & Chris Telmer & Amir Yaron, "undated". "Asset pricing with idiosyncratic risk and overlapping generations," GSIA Working Papers 226, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  12. Andrew B. Abel, 1988. "Stock Prices Under Time-Varying Dividend Risk: An Exact Solution In An Infinite-Horizon General Equilibrium Model," NBER Working Papers 2621, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. S. Rao Aiyagari & Mark Gertler, 1990. "Asset Returns with Transactions Cost and Uninsured Risk: A Stage III Exercise," NBER Working Papers 3481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2001. "Taxes, regulations, and asset prices," Working Papers 610, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  17. Rajnish Mehra & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "The Equity Premium in Retrospect," NBER Working Papers 9525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1978. "Asset Prices in an Exchange Economy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(6), pages 1429-1445, November.
  19. Kandel, Shmuel & Stambaugh, Robert F., 1991. "Asset returns and intertemporal preferences," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 39-71, February.
  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. 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.
  22. Phillippe Weil, 1997. "The Equity Premium Puzzle and the Risk-Free Rate Puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1833, David K. Levine.
  23. G. Constantinides, 1990. "Habit formation: a resolution of the equity premium puzzle," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1397, David K. Levine.
  24. 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.
  25. John Heaton & Deborah Lucas, 1993. "Evaluating the Effects of Incomplete Markets on Risk Sharing and Asset Pricing," NBER Working Papers 4249, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  26. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
  27. S Rao Aiyagari & Mark Gertler, 1997. "Asset Returns with transaction costs and uninsured individual risk," Levine's Working Paper Archive 648, David K. Levine.
  28. 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.
  29. Heaton, John & Lucas, Deborah, 1997. "Market Frictions, Savings Behavior, And Portfolio Choice," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 76-101, January.
  30. Rietz, Thomas A., 1988. "The equity risk premium a solution," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 117-131, July.
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