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Has the Business Cycle Changed and Why?

80 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2002  

James H. Stock

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Mark W. Watson

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2002

Abstract

From 1960-1983, the standard deviation of annual growth rates in real GDP in the United States was 2.7%. From 1984-2001, the corresponding standard deviation was 1.6%. This paper investigates this large drop in the cyclical volatility OF real economic.activity. The paper has two objectives. The first is to provide a comprehensive characterization of the decline in volatility using a large number of U.S. economic time series and a variety of methods designed to describe time-varying time series processes. In so doing, the paper reviews the literature on the moderation and attempts to resolve some of its disagreements and discrepancies. The second objective is to provide new evidence on the quantitative importance of various explanations for this 'great moderation.' Taken together, we estimate that the moderation in volatility is attributable to a combination of improved policy (20-30%), identifiable good luck in the form of productivity and commodity price shocks (20-30%), and other unknown forms of good luck that manifest themselves as smaller reduced-form forecast errors (40-60%).

Suggested Citation

Stock, James H. and Watson, Mark W., Has the Business Cycle Changed and Why? (August 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w9127. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=327153

James H. Stock (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Mark W. Watson

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

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