Staff Report 478

Engineering a Paradox of Thrift Recession

José-Víctor Ríos-Rull - Consultant
Zhen Huo

Published December 28, 2012

We build a variation of the neoclassical growth model in which financial shocks to households or wealth shocks (in the sense of wealth destruction) generate recessions. Two standard ingredients that are necessary are (1) the existence of adjustment costs that make the expansion of the tradable goods sector difficult and (2) the existence of some frictions in the labor market that prevent enormous reductions in real wages (Nash bargaining in Mortensen-Pissarides labor markets is enough). We pose a new ingredient that greatly magnifies the recession: a reduction in consumption expenditures reduces measured productivity, while technology is unchanged due to reduced utilization of production capacity. Our model provides a novel, quantitative theory of the current recessions in southern Europe.

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