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On the Virtue of Bad Times: An Analysis of the Interaction between Economic Fluctuations and Productivity Growth


  • Aghion, Philippe
  • Saint-Paul, Gilles


This paper develops a simple model, which shows how economic fluctuations can stimulate growth. It is shown that firms tend to invest more in productivity growth during recessions, since the opportunity cost (in terms of forgone profits) of investing capital or labour resources in technological (or managerial) improvements is lower during recessions. It is then established that the average growth rate of the economy increases with the amplitude of the fluctuations and also with their frequency, provided that the initial average duration of recession phases is sufficiently low compared with that of the expansion phases. Finally, the main results of the paper are shown to be consistent with the empirical evidence recently produced by Davis-Haltiwanger (1990) or Blanchard-Diamond (1990) concerning the cyclical behaviour of job re-allocation.

Suggested Citation

  • Aghion, Philippe & Saint-Paul, Gilles, 1991. "On the Virtue of Bad Times: An Analysis of the Interaction between Economic Fluctuations and Productivity Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 578, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:578

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Valerie Cerra & Sweta Chaman Saxena, 2008. "Growth Dynamics: The Myth of Economic Recovery," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 439-457, March.
    2. Carmeci, Gaetano & Mauro, Luciano, 2003. "Imperfect labor market and convergence: theory and evidence for some OECD countries," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 25(8), pages 837-856, November.
    3. Balavac, Merima & Pugh, Geoff, 2016. "The link between trade openness, export diversification, institutions and output volatility in transition countries," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 273-287.
    4. Patricia Crifo & Etienne Lehmann, 2001. "Why the Kuznets Curve Will Always Reverse," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00150324, HAL.
    5. Imbs, Jean, 2002. "Why the Link Between Volatility and Growth is Both Positive and Negative," CEPR Discussion Papers 3561, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Obstfeld, Maurice, 1994. "Risk-Taking, Global Diversification, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1310-1329, December.
    7. Dimitrios Varvarigos & Keith Blackburn, 2005. "Growth, Uncertainty and Finance," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2005 12, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
    8. Patricia Crifo-Tillet & Etienne Lehmann, 2004. "Why Will Technical Change Not Be Permanently Skill-Biased?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(1), pages 157-180, January.
    9. Erica Fellinger Jusué & Tomás Mancha Navarro, 2008. "Stabilization policies in Argentina: an analysis from the perspective of inflation uncertainty," Working Papers 04/08, Instituto Universitario de Análisis Económico y Social.
    10. Dimitris Christopoulos & Miguel León-Ledesma, 2009. "Efficiency and frontier technology in the aftermath of recessions: international evidence," Studies in Economics 0922, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    11. Li, Chol-Won, 2000. "Growth and Output Fluctuations," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 47(2), pages 95-113, May.
    12. Muriel Dal Pont Legrand & Harald Hagemann, 2017. "Retrospectives: Do Productive Recessions Show the Recuperative Powers of Capitalism? Schumpeter's Analysis of the Cleansing Effect," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 245-256, Winter.
    13. Keiko Ito & Sébastien Lechevalier, 2009. "The evolution of the productivity dispersion of firms: a reevaluation of its determinants in the case of Japan," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 145(3), pages 405-429, October.
    14. K Blackburn & R Galindev, 2003. "Growth, volatility and learning," Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research Discussion Paper Series 25, Economics, The Univeristy of Manchester.
    15. Keith Blackburn & Dimitrios Varvarigos, 2008. "Human capital accumulation and output growth in a stochastic environment," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 36(3), pages 435-452, September.
    16. V A Muscatelli., 1995. "Flexibility, Structural Change and the Global Economy," Working Papers 9601, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Jan 1996.
    17. Miguel A. León-Ledesma & Matteo Lanzafame, 2010. "The Endogenous Nature of the ‘Natural’ Rate of Growth," Chapters,in: Handbook of Alternative Theories of Economic Growth, chapter 10 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. Gadi Barlevy, 1999. "Credit Market Frictions and the Reallocation Process," Discussion Papers 1251, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    19. Pablo Mejía-Reyes & Reyna Vergara-González, 2015. "Are more severe recessions followed by stronger recoveries? Evidence from the Mexican states employment," ERSA conference papers ersa15p1223, European Regional Science Association.

    More about this item


    Expansions; Job Creation; Job Destruction; Productivity Growth; Productivity Shocks; Recessions;

    JEL classification:

    • C68 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Computable General Equilibrium Models
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D50 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - General
    • D92 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Intertemporal Firm Choice, Investment, Capacity, and Financing


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