Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty
Scott R. Baker
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Department of Finance
Stanford University - Department of Economics; London School of Economics - Centre for Economic Performance (CEP); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Steven J. Davis
University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
January 1, 2013
Chicago Booth Research Paper No. 13-02
Many commentators argue that uncertainty about tax, spending, monetary and regulatory policy slowed the recovery from the 2007-2009 recession. To investigate this we develop a new index of economic policy uncertainty (EPU), built on three components: the frequency of newspaper references to economic policy uncertainty, the number of federal tax code provisions set to expire, and the extent of forecaster disagreement over future inflation and government purchases. This EPU index spikes near consequential presidential elections and major events such as the Gulf wars and the 9/11 attack. It also rises steeply from 2008 onward. We then evaluate our EPU index, first on a sample of 3,500 human audited news articles, and second against other measures of policy uncertainty, with these suggesting our EPU index is a good proxy for actual economic policy uncertainty. Drilling down into our index we find that the post-2008 increase was driven mainly by tax, spending and healthcare policy uncertainty. Finally, VAR estimates show that an innovation in policy uncertainty equal to the increase from 2006 to 2011 foreshadows declines of up to 2.3% in GDP and 2.3 million in employment.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48
Keywords: economic uncertainty, policy unvertainty, business cycles
JEL Classification: D80, E22, E66, G18, L50
Date posted: January 9, 2013
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