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The Great Diversification?

  • Vasco Carvalho
  • X. Gabaix

We investigate the hypothesis that macroeconomic fluctuations are primitively the results of many microeconomic shocks, and show that it has significant explanatory power for the evolution of macroeconomic volatility. We define fundamental volatility as the volatility that would arise from an economy made entirely of idiosyncratic microeconomic shocks, occurring primitively at the level of sectors or firms. In its empirical construction, motivated by a simple model, the sales share of different sectors vary over time (in a way we directly measure), while the volatility of those sectors remains constant. We find that fundamental volatility accounts for the swings in macroeconomic volatility in the US and the other major world economies in the past half century. It accounts for the great moderation and its undoing. Controlling for our measure of fundamental volatility, there is no break in output volatility. The initial great moderation is due to a decreasing share of manufacturing between 1975 and 1985. The recent rise of macroeconomic volatility is due to the increase of the size of the financial sector. We provide a model to think quantitatively about the large comovement generated by idiosyncratic shocks. As the origin of aggregate shocks can be traced to identifiable microeconomic shocks, we may better understand the origins of aggregate fluctuations.

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Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 422.

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Date of creation: Jan 2010
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:422
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  1. Zhongjun Qu & Pierre Perron, 2005. "Estimating and testing structural changes in multivariate regressions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2005-012, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  2. Julian di Giovanni & Andrei A. Levchenko, 2009. "International Trade and Aggregate Fluctuations in Granular Economies," Working Papers 585, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  3. Jordi Galí & Luca Gambetti, 2006. "On the sources of the Great Moderation," Economics Working Papers 1041, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jun 2007.
  4. Alejandro Justiniano & Giorgio E. Primiceri, 2008. "The Time-Varying Volatility of Macroeconomic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 604-41, June.
  5. Nir Jaimovich & Henry E. Siu, 2007. "The young, the old, and the restless: demographics and business cycle volatility," Staff Report 387, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  6. Vasco Carvalho, 2007. "Aggregate fluctuations and the network structure of intersectoral trade," Economics Working Papers 1206, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Oct 2010.
  7. Xavier Gabaix, 2005. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," 2005 Meeting Papers 470, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
  9. Andrew T. Foerster & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte & Mark W. Watson, 2011. "Sectoral versus Aggregate Shocks: A Structural Factor Analysis of Industrial Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(1), pages 1 - 38.
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