Granular Instrumental Variables
93 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2019 Last revised: 1 Aug 2019
Date Written: July 30, 2019
In many settings, there is a dearth of instruments, which hampers economists’ ability to investigate causal relations. We propose a quite general way to construct instruments: “granular instrumental variables” (GIVs). In the economies we study, a few large firms or countries account for a large share of economic activity. As they are large, their idiosyncratic shocks affect aggregate outcomes. This makes those idiosyncratic shocks valid instruments for aggregate shocks. We provide a methodology to extract idiosyncratic shocks from the data, this way creating GIVs. Those GIVs allow us to then estimate parameters of interest, including causal elasticities.
We first illustrate the idea in a basic supply and demand framework: we achieve a novel identification of supply and demand elasticities, based on idiosyncratic shocks to supply or demand. We then show how the procedure can be adapted to handle many enrichments. We provide initial illustrations of the procedure with two applications. First, we measure how “sovereign yield shocks” spill over to other countries in the Eurozone. Second, we estimate short-term supply and demand elasticities in the oil market. Our estimates match well existing estimates that use much more complex and labor-intensive (e.g., narrative) methods. We sketch how GIVs could be useful to estimate a host of other causal parameters in economics.
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