Animal Spirits, Financial Crises and Persistent Unemployment
NBER Working Paper No. 17137
This paper develops a rational expectations model with multiple equilibrium unemployment rates where the price of capital may be unbounded above. I argue that this property is an important feature of any rational-agent explanation of a financial crisis, since for the expansion phase of the crisis to be rational, investors must credibly believe that asset prices could keep increasing forever with positive probability. I explain the sudden crash in asset prices that precipitates a financial crisis as a large negative self-fulfilling shock to the expectation of the future price of capital. This shock causes a permanent reduction in wealth and consumption and a permanent increase in the unemployment rate. My work suggests that economic policies designed to reduce the volatility of asset market movements will significantly increase economic welfare.
This paper was revised on September 14, 2012
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17137
Published: “Animal Spirits, Persistent Unemployment and the Belief Function”, Chapter 7, in Rethinking Expectations: The Way Forward for Macroeconomics , Roman Frydman and Edmund Phelps eds, Princet on University Press, 2013
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