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The Great Diversification and its Undoing

  • Carvalho, Vasco M
  • Gabaix, Xavier

We investigate the hypothesis that macroeconomic fluctuations are primitively the results of many microeconomic shocks, and show that it has significant explanatory power for the evolution of macroeconomic volatility. We define “fundamental” volatility as the volatility that would arise from an economy made entirely of idiosyncratic microeconomic shocks, occurring primitively at the level of sectors or firms. In its empirical construction, motivated by a simple model, the sales share of different sectors vary over time (in a way we directly measure), while the volatility of those sectors remains constant. We find that fundamental volatility accounts for the swings in macroeconomic volatility in the US and the other major world economies in the past half century. It accounts for the “great moderation” and its undoing. Controlling for our measure of fundamental volatility, there is no break in output volatility. The initial great moderation is due to a decreasing share of manufacturing between 1975 and 1985. The recent rise of macroeconomic volatility is due to the increase of the size of the financial sector. We provide a model to think quantitatively about the large comovement generated by idiosyncratic shocks. As the origin of aggregate shocks can be traced to identifiable microeconomic shocks, we may better understand the origins of aggregate fluctuations.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8044.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8044
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  1. Vasco M Carvalho, 2008. "Aggregate Fluctuations and the Network Structure of Intersectoral Trade," 2008 Meeting Papers 1062, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  14. Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan & Bent Sorensen & Vadym Volosovych, 2014. "Deep Financial Integration And Volatility," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 12(6), pages 1558-1585, December.
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  18. Xavier Gabaix, 2005. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," 2005 Meeting Papers 470, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  19. Daron Acemoglu & Asuman Ozdaglar & Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi, 2010. "Cascades in Networks and Aggregate Volatility," NBER Working Papers 16516, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  23. Andrew T. Foerster & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte & Mark W. Watson, 2011. "Sectoral versus Aggregate Shocks: A Structural Factor Analysis of Industrial Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(1), pages 1 - 38.
  24. Jorgenson, D.W. & Timmer, Marcel, 2010. "Structural Change in Advanced Nations: A New Set of Stylised Facts," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-115, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
  25. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf'S Law For Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767, August.
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