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Solving the Equity Risk Premium Puzzle and Inching Towards a Theory of Everything

Ravi Kashyap

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Abstract: The equity risk premium puzzle is that the return on equities has far exceeded the average return on short-term risk-free debt and cannot be explained by conventional representative-agent consumption based equilibrium models. We review a few attempts done over the years to explain this anomaly: 1. Inclusion of highly unlikely events with low probability (Ugly state along with Good and Bad), or market crashes / Black Swans. 2. Slow moving habit, or time-varying subsistence level, added to the basic power utility function. 3. A separation of the inter-temporal elasticity of substitution and risk aversion, combined with long run risks which captures time varying economic uncertainty. We explore whether a fusion of the above approaches supplemented with better methods to handle the below reservations would provide a more realistic and yet tractable framework to tackle the various conundrums in the social sciences: 1. Unlimited ability of individuals to invest as compared to their ability to consume. 2. Lack of an objective measuring stick of value 3. Unintended consequences due to the dynamic nature of social systems 4. Relaxation of the transversality condition to avoid the formation of asset price bubbles 5. How durable is durable? Accounting for durable goods since nothing lasts forever The world we live in produces fascinating phenomenon despite (or perhaps, due to) being a hotchpotch of varying doses of the above elements. The rationale for a unified theory is that beauty can emerge from chaos since the best test for a stew is its taste. Many long standing puzzles seem to have been resolved using different techniques. The various explanations need to stand the test of time before acceptance; but then unexpected outcomes set in and new puzzles emerge. As real analysis and limits tell us: We are getting Closer and Closer; Yet it seems we are still Far Far Away...

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-upt
Date: 2016-04, Revised 2019-09
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Published in Journal of Private Equity, Spring 2018, Institutional Investor Journals, New York, USA, Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 45-63;

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