We revisit several leading puzzles about the aggregate stock market by incorporating into a standard dividend discount model survey expectations of earnings of S&P 500 firms. Using survey expectations, while keeping discount rates constant, explains a significant part of “excess” stock price volatility, price-earnings ratio variation, and return predictability. The evidence is consistent with a mechanism in which good news about fundamentals leads to excessively optimistic forecasts of earnings, especially at long horizons, which inflate stock prices and lead to subsequent low returns. Relaxing rational expectations of fundamentals in a standard asset pricing model accounts for stock market anomalies in a parsimonious way.
We explore the idea that judgment by representativeness reflects the workings of episodic memory, especially interference. In a new laboratory experiment on cued recall, participants are shown two groups of images with different distributions of colors. We find that i) decreasing the frequency of a given color in one group significantly increases the recalled frequency of that color in the other group, ii) for a fixed set of images, different cues for the same objective distribution entail different interference patterns and different probabilistic assessments. Selective retrieval and interference may offer a foundation for the representativeness heuristic, but more generally for understanding the formation of probability judgments from experienced statistical associations.
We assemble and analyze a new data set of homeowner insurance claims from 28 independently operated country subsidiaries of a multinational insurance company. A fundamental feature of the data is that such claims are often disputed, and lead to rejections or lower payments. We propose a new model of insurance, in which consumers can make invalid claims and firms can deny valid claims. In this environment, trust and honesty are critical factors that shape insurance contracts and the payment of claims, especially when the disputed amounts are too small for courts. We characterize equilibrium insurance contracts, and show how they depend on the quality of the legal system and the level of trust. We then investigate the incidence of claims, disputes and rejections of claims, and payment of claims in our data, as well as the cost and pricing of insurance. The evidence is consistent with the centrality of trust for insurance markets, as predicted by the model.
A central challenge in securing property rights is the subversion of justice through legal skill, bribery, or physical force by the strong—the state or its powerful citizens—against the weak. We present evidence that undue influence on judges is a common concern in many countries, especially among the poor. We then present a model of a water polluter whose discharges contaminate adjacent land. If this polluter can subvert the assessment of damages caused by his activity, there is an efficiency case for granting the landowner the right to an injunction that stops the polluter, rather than the right to compensation for the harm. If the polluter can subvert even the determination of his responsibility for harm, there is an efficiency case for regulation that restricts pollution regardless of its effects. We then conduct an empirical analysis of water quality in the U.S. before and after the Clean Water Act, and show how regulation brought about cleaner water, particularly in states with higher corruption.