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The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations

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  • Xavier Gabaix

Abstract

This paper proposes that idiosyncratic firm-level fluctuations can explain an important part of aggregate shocks, and provide a microfoundation for aggregate productivity shocks. Existing research has focused on using aggregate shocks to explain business cycles, arguing that individual firm shocks average out in aggregate. I show that this argument breaks down if the distribution of firm sizes is fat-tailed, as documented empirically. The idiosyncratic movements of the largest 100 firms in the US appear to explain about one third of variations in output and the Solow residual. This "granular" hypothesis suggests new directions for macroeconomic research, in particular that macroeconomic questions can be clarified by looking at the behavior of large firms. This paper's ideas and analytical results may also be useful to think about the fluctuations of other economic aggregates, such as exports or the trade balance.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15286.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Publication status: published as Xavier Gabaix, 2011. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 733-772, 05.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15286

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