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Firm-Specific Productivity Risk over the Business Cycle: Facts and Aggregate Implications

  • Ruediger Bachmann
  • Christian Bayer

Is time-varying firm-level uncertainty a major cause or amplifier of the business cycle? This paper investigates this question in the context of a heterogeneous-firm RBC model with persistent firm-level productivity shocks and lumpy capital adjustment, where cyclical changes in uncertainty correspond naturally to cyclical changes in the cross-sectional dispersion of firm-specific Solow residual innovations. We use a German firm-level data set to investigate the extent to which firm-level uncertainty varies over the cycle. This allows us to put empirical discipline on our numerical simulations. We find that, while firm-level uncertainty is indeed countercyclical, it does not fluctuate enough to significantly alter the dynamics of an RBC model with only first moment shocks. The mild changes we do find are mainly caused by a bad news effect: higher uncertainty today predicts lower aggregate Solowresiduals tomorrow. This effect dominates the real option value effect of time-varying uncertainty, highlighted in the literature.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2844.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2844
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  1. Susanto Basu, 1995. "Procyclical Productivity: Increasing Returns or Cyclical Utilization?," NBER Working Papers 5336, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo M. R. A. Engel & John C. Haltiwanger, 1995. "Plant-Level Adjustment and Aggregate Investment Dynamics," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 26(2), pages 1-54.
  3. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith & Jr., 1998. "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity in the Macroeconomy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(5), pages 867-896, October.
  4. Bachmann, Ruediger & Bayer, Christian, 2009. "The cross-section of firms over the business cycle: new facts and a DSGE exploration," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2009,17, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  5. Nicholas Bloom & Max Floetotto & Nir Jaimovich & Itay Saporta-Eksten & Stephen Terry, 2013. "Really uncertain business cycles," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51526, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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  9. Ruediger Bachmann & Ricardo J. Caballero & Eduardo Engel, 2008. "Aggregate Implications of Lumpy Investment: New Evidence and a DSGE Model," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1566R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Apr 2010.
  10. Jon Cohen & Michelle Alexopoulos, 2009. "Uncertain Times, Uncertain Measures," 2009 Meeting Papers 1211, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  14. Bayer, Christian & Juessen, Falko, 2009. "The Life-Cycle and the Business-Cycle of Wage Risk: A Cross-Country Comparison," IZA Discussion Papers 4402, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Nicholas Bloom, 2007. "The Impact of Uncertainty Shocks," NBER Working Papers 13385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. C. Higson & S. Holly & P. Kattuman & S. Platis, 2004. "The Business Cycle, Macroeconomic Shocks and the Cross-Section: The Growth of UK Quoted Companies," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 71(281), pages 299-318, 05.
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  20. Morten O. Ravn & Harald Uhlig, 2002. "On adjusting the Hodrick-Prescott filter for the frequency of observations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 371-375.
  21. Higson, C. & Holly, S. & Kattuman, P., 2002. "The cross-sectional dynamics of the US business cycle: 1950-1999," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(9-10), pages 1539-1555, August.
  22. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Sean Holly & Emiliano Santoro, 2007. "Financial Fragility, Heterogeneous Firms and the Cross Section of the Business Cycle," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2006 96, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
  24. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., . "Income and Wealth Heterogeneity, Portfolio Choice, and Equilibrium Asset Returns," GSIA Working Papers 1997-45, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  25. R?diger Bachmann & Steffen Elstner & Eric R. Sims, 2013. "Uncertainty and Economic Activity: Evidence from Business Survey Data," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 217-49, April.
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