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Oil and the Macroeconomy Since the 1970s

  • Barsky, Robert
  • Kilian, Lutz

Increases in oil prices have been held responsible for recessions, periods of excessive inflation, reduced productivity and lower economic growth. In this Paper, we review the arguments supporting such views. First, we highlight some of the conceptual difficulties in assigning a central role to oil price shocks in explaining macroeconomic fluctuations, and we trace how the arguments of proponents of the oil view have evolved in response to these difficulties. Second, we challenge the notion that at least the major oil price movements can be viewed as exogenous with respect to the US macroeconomy. We examine critically the evidence that has led many economists to ascribe a central role to exogenous political events in modelling the oil market, and we provide arguments in favour of ‘reverse causality’ from macroeconomic variables to oil prices. Third, although none of the more recent oil price shocks has been associated with stagflation in the US economy, a major reason for the continued popularity of the oil shock hypothesis has been the perception that only oil price shocks are able to explain the US stagflation of the 1970s. We show that this is not the case.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4496.

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Date of creation: Jul 2004
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4496
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  1. Ben S. Bernanke & Ilian Mihov, 1998. "Measuring Monetary Policy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 869-902, August.
  2. Edward J Green & Robert H Porter, 1997. "Noncooperative Collusion Under Imperfect Price Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1147, David K. Levine.
  3. Bernanke, Ben S. & Gertler, Mark & Waston, Mark, 1997. "Systematic Monetary Policy and the Effects of Oil Price Shocks," Working Papers 97-25, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  4. Michael P. Keane & Eswar Prasad, 1995. "The Employment and Wage Effects of Oil Price Changes; A Sectoral Analysis," IMF Working Papers 95/37, International Monetary Fund.
  5. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 2002. "The NAIRU in Theory and Practice," NBER Working Papers 8940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Michael Bruno & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 1985. "Economics of Worldwide Stagflation," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number brun85-1, October.
  7. Bohi, Douglas R., 1991. "On the macroeconomic effects of energy price shocks," Resources and Energy, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 145-162, June.
  8. Ben S. Bernanke, 1980. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," NBER Working Papers 0502, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. James D. Hamilton, 2000. "What is an Oil Shock?," NBER Working Papers 7755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Roberts, John M, 1995. "New Keynesian Economics and the Phillips Curve," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(4), pages 975-84, November.
  11. Gordon, Robert J, 1984. "Supply Shocks and Monetary Policy Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 38-43, May.
  12. Hamilton, James D, 1988. "A Neoclassical Model of Unemployment and the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 593-617, June.
  13. Olson, Mancur, 1988. "The Productivity Slowdown, the Oil Shocks, and the Real Cycle," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 2(4), pages 43-69, Fall.
  14. Bruce E. Hansen, 2001. "The New Econometrics of Structural Change: Dating Breaks in U.S. Labour Productivity," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 15(4), pages 117-128, Fall.
  15. Edmund S. Phelps, 1968. "Money-Wage Dynamics and Labor-Market Equilibrium," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 678.
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