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Learning And The Great Moderation

  • James Bullard
  • Aarti Singh

We study a stylized theory of the volatility reduction in the U.S. after 1984 - the Great Moderation - which attributes part of the stabilization to less volatile shocks and another part to more difficult inference on the part of Bayesian households attempting to learn the latent state of the economy. We use a standard equilibrium business cycle model with technology following an unobserved regime-switching process. After 1984, according to Kim and Nelson (1999a), the variance of U.S. macroeconomic aggregates declined because boom and recession regimes moved closer together, keeping conditional variance unchanged. In our model this makes the signal extraction problem more difficult for Bayesian households, and in response they moderate their behavior, reinforcing the effect of the less volatile stochastic technology and contributing an extra measure of moderation to the economy. We construct example economies in which this learning effect accounts for about 30 percent of a volatility reduction of the magnitude observed in the postwar U.S. data.

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Article provided by Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association in its journal International Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 53 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 (05)
Pages: 375-397

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Handle: RePEc:wly:iecrev:v:53:y:2012:i:2:p:375-397
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  1. David Andolfatto & Paul Gomme, 1997. "Monetary Policy Regimes and Beliefs," Working Papers 97002, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Jan 1997.
  2. Laura Veldkamp, 2003. "Learning Asymmetries in Real Business Cycles," Working Papers 03-21, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  3. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles Nelson & Jeremy M. Piger, 2003. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," Working Papers 2001-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  4. Owyang, Michael T. & Piger, Jeremy & Wall, Howard J., 2008. "A state-level analysis of the Great Moderation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 578-589, November.
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  7. Gabriel Perez-Quiros & Margaret M. McConnell, 2000. "Output Fluctuations in the United States: What Has Changed since the Early 1980's?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1464-1476, December.
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  12. Clarida, R. & Gali, J. & Gertler, M., 1998. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and some Theory," Working Papers 98-01, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
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  14. Andres Arias & Gary D. Hansen & Lee E. Ohanian, 2006. "Why Have Business Cycle Fluctuations Become Less Volatile?," NBER Working Papers 12079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Shaghil Ahmed & Andrew Levin & Beth Anne Wilson, 2004. "Recent U.S. Macroeconomic Stability: Good Policies, Good Practices, or Good Luck?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(3), pages 824-832, August.
  16. James B. Bullard & John Duffy, 2004. "Learning and structural change in macroeconomic data," Working Papers 2004-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  17. Marco Cagetti & Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams, 2002. "Robustness and Pricing with Uncertain Growth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 363-404, March.
  18. Fabio Milani, 2007. "Learning and Time-Varying Macroeconomic Volatility," Working Papers 070802, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
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