Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty

76 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2015

See all articles by Scott R. Baker

Scott R. Baker

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Department of Finance

Nicholas Bloom

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Steven J. Davis

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2015

Abstract

We develop a new index of economic policy uncertainty (EPU) based on newspaper coverage frequency. Several types of evidence - including human readings of 12,000 newspaper articles – indicate that our index proxies for movements in policy-related economic uncertainty. Our US index spikes near tight presidential elections, Gulf Wars I and II, the 9/11 attacks, the failure of Lehman Brothers, the 2011 debt-ceiling dispute and other major battles over fiscal policy. Using firm-level data, we find that policy uncertainty raises stock price volatility and reduces investment and employment in policy-sensitive sectors like defense, healthcare, and infrastructure construction. At the macro level, policy uncertainty innovations foreshadow declines in investment, output, and employment in the United States and, in a panel VAR setting, for 12 major economies. Extending our US index back to 1900, EPU rose dramatically in the 1930s (from late 1931) and has drifted upwards since the 1960s.

Keywords: business cycles, economic uncertainty, fluctuations, policy uncertainty

JEL Classification: D80, E22, E66, G18, L50

Suggested Citation

Baker, Scott R. and Bloom, Nicholas and Davis, Steven J., Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty (October 2015). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP10900. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2682567

Scott R. Baker (Contact Author)

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management, Department of Finance ( email )

Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Nicholas Bloom

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building, Room 231
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-725-7836 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://economics.stanford.edu/faculty/bloom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Steven J. Davis

University of Chicago ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
773-702-7312 (Phone)
773-702-0458 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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