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Changes in Business Cycles: Evidence and Explanations

  • Christina D. Romer

This paper shows that the volatility of annual real macroeconomic indicators for the United States and the average severity of recessions have declined only slightly between the pre-World War I and post-World War II eras. Recessions have, however, become somewhat less frequent and more uniform. It argues that the advent of macroeconomic policy after World War II can account for both the observed continuity and change. Countercyclical monetary policy and automatic stabilizers have prolonged postwar expansions and prevented severe depressions. At the same time, policy-induced booms and recessions have led to continued volatility of the postwar economy.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.13.2.23
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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 13 (1999)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 23-44

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:13:y:1999:i:2:p:23-44
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.13.2.23
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  1. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1994. "What Ends Recessions?," NBER Working Papers 4765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1994. "What Ends Recessions?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 13-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Hanes, Christopher, 1999. "Degrees of Processing and Changes in the Cyclical Behavior of Prices in the Untied States, 1869-1990," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 31(1), pages 35-53, February.
  3. Bernanke, Ben S, 1990. "Clearing and Settlement during the Crash," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 3(1), pages 133-51.
  4. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989, Volume 4, pages 121-184 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Romer, Christina D, 1986. "Is the Stabilization of the Postwar Economy a Figment of the Data?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 314-34, June.
  6. Arthur F. Burns & Wesley C. Mitchell, 1946. "Measuring Business Cycles," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number burn46-1, 07.
  7. Watson, Mark W, 1994. "Business-Cycle Durations and Postwar Stabilization of the U.S. Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(1), pages 24-46, March.
  8. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  9. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H. (ed.), 1997. "Reducing Inflation," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226724843.
  10. Shapiro, Matthew D, 1988. "The Stabilization of the U.S. Economy: Evidence from the Stock Marke t," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1067-79, December.
  11. Francis X. Diebold & Glenn D. Rudebusch, 1991. "Have postwar economic fluctuations been stabilized?," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 116, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  12. Romer, Christina D., 1994. "Remeasuring Business Cycles," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 573-609, September.
  13. Martin Neil Baily, 1978. "Stabilization Policy and Private Economic Behavior," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 9(1), pages 11-60.
  14. J. Bradford DeLong & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "The Changing Cyclical Variability of Economic Activity in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change, pages 679-734 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H., 1994. "Monetary policy matters," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 75-88, August.
  16. John B. Taylor, 1998. "An Historical Analysis of Monetary Policy Rules," NBER Working Papers 6768, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Sheffrin, Steven M., 1988. "Have economic fluctuations been dampened? : A look at evidence outside the United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 73-83, January.
  18. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1994. "Federal Reserve Policy: Cause and Effect," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 307-334 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Balke, Nathan S & Gordon, Robert J, 1989. "The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 38-92, February.
  20. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1997. "Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rome97-1, 07.
  21. J. Bradford DeLong, 1998. "Fiscal Policy in the Shadow of the Great Depression," NBER Chapters, in: The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, pages 67-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn61-1, 07.
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