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On the Welfare Costs of Business-Cycle Fluctuations and Economic-Growth Variation in the 20th Century

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  • Osmani Teixeira de Carvalho Guillén
  • João Victor Issler
  • Afonso Arinos de Mello Franco-Neto

Abstract

Lucas(1987) has shown a surprising result in business-cycle research: the welfare cost of business cycles are very small. Our paper has several original contributions. First, in computing welfare costs, we propose a novel setup that separates the effects of uncertainty stemming from business-cycle fluctuations and economic-growth variation. Second, we extend the sample from which to compute the moments of consumption: the whole of the literature chose primarily to work with post-WWII data. For this period, actual consumption is already a result of counter-cyclical policies, and is potentially smoother than what it otherwise have been in their absence. So, we employ also pre-WWII data. Third, we take an econometric approach and compute explicitly the asymptotic standard deviation of welfare costs using the Delta Method. Estimates of welfare costs show major differences for the pre-WWII and the post-WWII era. They can reach up to 15 times for reasonable parameter values -- ß=0.985, and f=5. For example, in the pre-WWII period (1901-1941), welfare cost estimates are 0.31% of consumption if we consider only permanent shocks and 0.61% of consumption if we consider only transitory shocks. In comparison, the post-WWII era is much quieter: welfare costs of economic growth are 0.11% and welfare costs of business cycles are 0.037% -- the latter being very close to the estimate in Lucas (0.040%). Estimates of marginal welfare costs are roughly twice the size of the total welfare costs. For the pre-WWII era, marginal welfare costs of economic-growth and business-cycle fluctuations are respectively 0.63% and 1.17% of per-capita consumption. The same figures for the post-WWII era are, respectively, 0.21% and 0.07% of per-capita consumption.

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Paper provided by Central Bank of Brazil, Research Department in its series Working Papers Series with number 284.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Handle: RePEc:bcb:wpaper:284

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  1. Zellner, A., 1992. "Statistics, Science and Public Policy," Papers 92-21, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  2. Chris Otrok, 1999. "On Measuring the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles," Virginia Economics Online Papers 318, University of Virginia, Department of Economics.
  3. Lustig, Hanno & van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn & Verdelhan, Adrien, 2012. "The Wealth-Consumption Ratio," CEPR Discussion Papers 9022, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Jim Dolmas, 1998. "Risk Preferences and the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 646-676, July.
  5. Edmund S. Phelps, 1968. "Money-Wage Dynamics and Labor-Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 678.
  6. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Working Papers 4719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Proietti, Tommaso, 1997. "Short-Run Dynamics in Cointegrated Systems," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 59(3), pages 405-22, August.
  8. Vahid, F & Engle, Robert F, 1993. "Common Trends and Common Cycles," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 8(4), pages 341-60, Oct.-Dec..
  9. Issler, Joao Victor & Vahid, Farshid, 2001. "Common cycles and the importance of transitory shocks to macroeconomic aggregates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(3), pages 449-475, June.
  10. Márcio Antônio Salvato & João Victor Issler & Angelo Mont'alverne Duarte, 2005. "Are Business Cycles All Alike In Europe?," Anais do XXXIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 33th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 031, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
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