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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 24 No. 4 (Fall 2010)

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Natural Expectations and Macroeconomic Fluctuations

Article Citation

Fuster, Andreas, David Laibson, and Brock Mendel. 2010. "Natural Expectations and Macroeconomic Fluctuations." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24(4): 67-84.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.4.67

Abstract

A large body of empirical evidence suggests that beliefs systematically deviate from perfect rationality. Much of the evidence implies that economic agents tend to form forecasts that are excessively influenced by recent changes. We present a parsimonious quasi-rational model that we call natural expectations, which falls between rational expectations and (naïve) intuitive expectations. (Intuitive expectations are formed by running growth regressions with a limited number of right-hand-side variables, and this leads to excessively extrapolative beliefs in certain classes of environments). Natural expectations overstate the long-run persistence of economic shocks. In other words, agents with natural expectations turn out to form beliefs that don't sufficiently account for the fact that good times (or bad times) won't last forever. We embed natural expectations in a simple dynamic macroeconomic model and compare the simulated properties of the model to the available empirical evidence. The model's predictions match many patterns observed in macroeconomic and financial time series, such as high volatility of asset prices, predictable up-and-down cycles in equity returns, and a negative relationship between current consumption growth and future equity returns.

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Online Appendix (286.50 KB)

Authors

Fuster, Andreas (Harvard U)
Laibson, David (Harvard U)
Mendel, Brock (Harvard U)

JEL Classifications

D83: Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief
D84: Expectations; Speculations
E21: Macroeconomics: Consumption; Saving; Wealth
E32: Business Fluctuations; Cycles
E44: Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy

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