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Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty

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  • Scott R. Baker
  • Nicholas Bloom
  • Steven J. Davis

Abstract

We develop a new index of economic policy uncertainty (EPU) based on newspaper coverage frequency. Several types of evidence - including human readings of 12,000 newspaper articles - indicate that our index proxies for movements in policy-related economic uncertainty. Our US index spikes near tight presidential elections, Gulf Wars I and II, the 9/11 attacks, the failure of Lehman Brothers, the 2011 debt-ceiling dispute and other major battles over fiscal policy. Using firm-level data, we find that policy uncertainty raises stock price volatility and reduces investment and employment in policy-sensitive sectors like defense, healthcare, and infrastructure construction. At the macro level, policy uncertainty innovations foreshadow declines in investment, output, and employment in the United States and, in a panel VAR setting, for 12 major economies. Extending our US index back to 1900, EPU rose dramatically in the 1930s (from late 1931) and has drifted upwards since the 1960s.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott R. Baker & Nicholas Bloom & Steven J. Davis, 2015. "Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty," CEP Discussion Papers dp1379, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1379
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic uncertainty; policy uncertainty; business cycles; fluctuations;

    JEL classification:

    • D80 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - General
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E66 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General Outlook and Conditions
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • L50 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - General

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