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Can a Representative-Agent Model Represent a Heterogeneous-Agent Economy?

Accounting for observed fluctuations in aggregate employment, consumption, and real wage using the optimality conditions of a representative household often requires preferences that are incompatible with economic priors (e.g., Mankiw, Rotemberg, and Summers 1985). This discrepancy between the equilibrium model and the aggregate data is often viewed as evidence of the failure of labor-market clearing. We argue that such a conclusion is premature. We construct a model economy where all prices are flexible and all markets clear at all times but household decisions are not readily aggregated because of incomplete capital markets and the indivisible nature of the labor supply. We demonstrate that if we were to explain the model-generated aggregate time series using decisions of a fictitious" stand-in household, such a household is likely to have a non-concave or unstable utility. Our analysis suggests that the representative-agent model often fails to represent an equilibrium outcome of a heterogeneous-agent economy.

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Paper provided by University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER) in its series RCER Working Papers with number 542.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:roc:rocher:542
Contact details of provider: Postal: University of Rochester, Center for Economic Research, Department of Economics, Harkness 231 Rochester, New York 14627 U.S.A.

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  1. Joseph Altonji, 1984. "Intertemporal Substitution in Labor Supply: Evidence from Micro Data," Working Papers 562, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  2. Hall, Robert E, 1997. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations and the Allocation of Time," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages S223-50, January.
  3. Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2007. "Heterogeneity and Aggregation: Implications for Labor-Market Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(5), pages 1939-1956, December.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521871525 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Yongsung Chang & Sun-Bin Kim, 2006. "From Individual To Aggregate Labor Supply: A Quantitative Analysis Based On A Heterogeneous Agent Macroeconomy ," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(1), pages 1-27, 02.
  6. Solon, Gary & Barsky, Robert & Parker, Jonathan A, 1994. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important Is Composition Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 109(1), pages 1-25, February.
  7. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  8. Ghysels, Eric & Hall, Alastair, 1990. "Are consumption-based intertemporal capital asset pricing models structural?," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1-2), pages 121-139.
  9. Richard Rogerson, 2010. "Indivisible Labor, Lotteries and Equilibrium," Levine's Working Paper Archive 250, David K. Levine.
  10. V. V. Chari & Patrick Kehoe & Ellen McGrattan, 2004. "Business Cycle Accounting," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000560, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-54, July.
  12. Scheinkman, Jose A & Weiss, Laurence, 1986. "Borrowing Constraints and Aggregate Economic Activity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(1), pages 23-45, January.
  13. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1993. "Uninsured idiosyncratic risk and aggregate saving," Working Papers 502, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  14. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521692083 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. Dunn, Kenneth B. & Singleton, Kenneth J., 1986. "Modeling the term structure of interest rates under non-separable utility and durability of goods," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 27-55, September.
  16. King, Robert G. & Plosser, Charles I. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1988. "Production, growth and business cycles : I. The basic neoclassical model," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2-3), pages 195-232.
  17. MaCurdy, Thomas E, 1981. "An Empirical Model of Labor Supply in a Life-Cycle Setting," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(6), pages 1059-85, December.
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