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Learning and the Great Moderation

  • Bullard, James B.
  • Singh, Aarti

We study a stylized theory of the volatility reduction in the U.S. after 1984 - the Great Moderation - which attributes part of the stabilization to less volatile shocks and another part to more difficult inference on the part of Bayesian households attempting to learn the latent state of the economy. We use a standard equilibrium business cycle model with technology following an unobserved regime-switching process. After 1984, according to Kim and Nelson (1999a), the variance of U.S. macroeconomic aggregates declined because boom and recession regimes moved closer together, keeping conditional variance unchanged. In our model this makes the signal extraction problem more difficult for Bayesian households, and in response they moderate their behavior, reinforcing the effect of the less volatile stochastic technology and contributing an extra measure of moderation to the economy. We construct example economies in which this learning effect accounts for about 30 percent of a volatility reduction of the magnitude observed in the postwar U.S. data.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7401.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7401
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  1. David Andolfatto & Paul Gomme, 2003. "Monetary Policy Regimes and Beliefs," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(1), pages 1-30, February.
  2. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson & Jeremy M. Piger, 2003. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," Working Papers 2001-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  3. 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.
  4. Marco Cagetti & Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams, 2002. "Robustness and Pricing with Uncertain Growth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 363-404, March.
  5. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1998. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Staff Reports 41, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  6. repec:oup:qjecon:v:115:y:2000:i:1:p:147-180 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "State-Space Models with Regime Switching: Classical and Gibbs-Sampling Approaches with Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262112388, June.
  8. Christopher A. Sims & Tao Zha, 2004. "Were there regime switches in U.S. monetary policy?," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2004-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  9. Michael T. Owyang & Jeremy M. Piger & Howard J. Wall, 2007. "A state-level analysis of the Great Moderation," Working Papers 2007-003, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  10. Giorgio E. Primiceri, 2005. "Time Varying Structural Vector Autoregressions and Monetary Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 821-852.
  11. Shaghil Ahmed & Andrew Levin & Beth Anne Wilson, 2004. "Recent U.S. Macroeconomic Stability: Good Policies, Good Practices, or Good Luck?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(3), pages 824-832, August.
  12. S. Boragan Aruoba & Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Juan F. Rubio-Ramirez, 2003. "Comparing Solution Methods for Dynamic Equilibrium Economies," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-003, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  13. James B. Bullard & John Duffy, 2004. "Learning and structural change in macroeconomic data," Working Papers 2004-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  14. Lee Ohanian & Andres Arias & Gary Hansen, 2005. "Why have business cycle fluctuations become less volatile?," 2005 Meeting Papers 927, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  15. Laura Veldkamp, 2003. "Learning Asymmetries in Real Business Cycles," Working Papers 03-21, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  16. Fabio Milani, 2007. "Learning and Time-Varying Macroeconomic Volatility," Working Papers 070802, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  17. Jes�s Fern�ndez-Villaverde & Juan F. Rubio-Ram�rez, 2007. "Estimating Macroeconomic Models: A Likelihood Approach," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(4), pages 1059-1087.
  18. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-84, March.
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