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Wealth and Volatility

Listed author(s):
  • Fabrizio Perri

    (University of Minnesota)

  • Jonathan Heathcote

    (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)

Periods of low household wealth in United States macroeconomic history have also been periods of high business cycle volatility. This paper develops a simple model that can exhibit self-fulfilling fluctuations in the expected path for unemployment. The novel feature is that the scope for sunspot-driven volatility depends on the level of household wealth. When wealth is high, consumer demand is largely insensitive to unemployment expectations and the economy is robust to confidence crises. When wealth is low, a stronger precautionary motive makes demand more sensitive to unemployment expectations, and the economy becomes vulnerable to confidence-driven fluctuations. In this case, there is a potential role for public policies to stabilize demand. Microeconomic evidence is consistent with the key model mechanism: during the Great Recession, households with relatively low wealth, ceteris paribus, cut expenditures more sharply.

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Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2013 Meeting Papers with number 385.

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Date of creation: 2013
Handle: RePEc:red:sed013:385
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Society for Economic Dynamics Marina Azzimonti Department of Economics Stonybrook University 10 Nicolls Road Stonybrook NY 11790 USA

Web page: http://www.EconomicDynamics.org/
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  1. Xavier Ragot & Edouard Challe, 2011. "Precautionary Saving over the Business Cycle," 2011 Meeting Papers 517, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  8. Martin Lettau & Sydney C. Ludvigson & Jessica A. Wachter, 2008. "The Declining Equity Premium: What Role Does Macroeconomic Risk Play?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(4), pages 1653-1687, July.
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