Financial Fragility, Industrial Dynamics and Business Fluctuations in an Agent Based Model

Cambridge University Press
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Journal Article
Macroeconomic Dynamics, 2007, 11 (S1), pp. 62 - 79
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n the 1990s a large body of literature--sometimes referred to as the financial accelerator hypothesis, broad credit view, or balance sheet channel--focused on the role of financial factors in business fluctuations and in the transmission of monetary shocks [Bernanke and Gertler (1989, 1990, 1995), Bernanke et al. (1996, 1999), Greenwald and Stiglitz (1988, 1990, 1993), Stiglitz and Greenwald (2003)]. Insightful new additions to the literature, albeit along different lines, have been provided by Kiyotaki and Moore (1997, 2002) and Cooley and Quadrini (2001). In these models, in principle, agents are heterogeneous, and sometimes it is also recognized that heterogeneity is a necessary ingredient of important business cycle features (such as composition effects), but the nature and consequences of heterogeneity are not thoroughly explored. At a certain point of the analysis, the representative agent pops up and heterogeneity gets lost or is simply neglected. The temptation to keep the analysis simple by resorting to the representative agent is understandable. After all, the representative agent framework has been one of the most successful tools in economics [Hartley (1997); Stoker (1993)] and is still the cornerstone of standard macroeconomics. This modeling strategy, however, is justified if heterogeneity is temporary, that is, if the population of different households/firms converges over time to a stationary distribution in which agents are identical. This condition is generally not fulfilled empirically. In real economies heterogeneity is not bound to disappear and the evolution over time of the distribution of heterogeneous agents affects the dynamics of the macrovariables. If macroeconomic modeling relies on the representative agent, therefore, the analysis of business fluctuations and of the transmission mechanism of monetary policy will be too simple and sometimes even simplistic.
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