Why are aggregate dividend payments procyclical?

We use two general equilibrium models to explain why changes in the external economic environment result in pro-cyclical aggregate dividend payout behavior. Both models that we consider endogenize low elasticity of investment. The first model incorporates capital adjustment costs, while the second one assumes that risk-averse managers maximize their own objective function rather than 1 shareholder wealth. We show that, while both models generate pro-cyclical aggregate dividends, a feature consistent with the observed business-cycle pattern of payouts from well-diversified portfolios, the second model provides a more likely explanation for this effect. Our findings emphasize the importance of incorporating agency conflicts when considering the relationship between the external economic environment and the financial behavior of businesses.