NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Animal Spirits, Financial Crises and Persistent Unemployment

Roger Farmer

NBER Working Paper No. 17137
Issued in June 2011
NBER Program(s):   EFG

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.

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This paper was revised on September 14, 2012

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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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