NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Pseudo-wealth and Consumption Fluctuations

Martin Guzman, Joseph E. Stiglitz

NBER Working Paper No. 22838
Issued in November 2016
NBER Program(s):EFG, IFM

This paper provides an explanation for situations in which the state variables describing the economy do not change, but aggregate consumption experiences significant changes. We present a theory of pseudo-wealth—individuals’ perceived wealth that is derived from heterogeneous beliefs and expectations of gains in a bet. This wealth is divorced from real assets that may exist in society. The creation of a market for bets will imply positive pseudo-wealth. Changes in the differences of prior beliefs will lead to changes in expected wealth and hence to changes in consumption, implying ex-post intertemporal individual and aggregate consumption misallocations and instabilities. Thus, in the environment we describe, completing markets increases macroeconomic volatility, raising unsettling welfare questions.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22838

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