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Magnitude X on the Richter Scale: Welfare Cost of Business Cycles in Developing Countries

Economic fluctuations are much stronger in developing countries than in the United States. Yet, while a large literature debates what constitutes a reasonable estimate of the welfare cost of business cycles in the US, it remains an open question how large that cost is in developing countries. Using several model economies, we provide such a measure for a large number of low--income countries. Our first main result is that the welfare cost of output fluctuations per se is far from trivial in those countries, and typically averages 15 to 30 times the corresponding estimate for the US. Our second major result is that, in many poor countries, that cost may in fact exceed the welfare cost of significantly lower growth.

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Paper provided by CREFE, Université du Québec à Montréal in its series Cahiers de recherche CREFE / CREFE Working Papers with number 124.

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Length: 15 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2000
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in the International Economic Review, 2002, new title On the Welfare Cost of Economic Fluctuations in Developing Countries
Handle: RePEc:cre:crefwp:124
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Web page: http://ideas.uqam.ca/CREFE/
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  1. Jonathan David Ostry & Carmen Reinhart, 1991. "Private Saving and Terms of Trade Shocks; Evidence From Developing Countries," IMF Working Papers 91/100, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Working Papers 4719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ramey, Garey & Ramey, Valerie A, 1995. "Cross-Country Evidence on the Link between Volatility and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1138-51, December.
  4. Per Krusell & Anthony A. Smith, Jr., 1999. "On the Welfare Effects of Eliminating Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 2(1), pages 245-272, January.
  5. Mendoza, Enrique G, 1995. "The Terms of Trade, the Real Exchange Rate, and Economic Fluctuations," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 36(1), pages 101-37, February.
  6. Pallage, Stephane & Robe, Michel A, 2001. "Foreign Aid and the Business Cycle," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(4), pages 641-72, November.
  7. Weil, Philippe, 1990. "Nonexpected Utility in Macroeconomics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 29-42, February.
  8. Agenor, Pierre-Richard & McDermott, C John & Prasad, Eswar S, 2000. "Macroeconomic Fluctuations in Developing Countries: Some Stylized Facts," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 14(2), pages 251-85, May.
  9. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
  10. Imrohoruglu, Ayse, 1989. "Cost of Business Cycles with Indivisibilities and Liquidity Constraints," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1364-83, December.
  11. Reinhart, Carmen & Ostry, Jonathan, 1992. "Saving and Terms of Trade Shocks: Evidence from Developing Countries," MPRA Paper 6976, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  12. Pritchett, Lant, 2000. "Understanding Patterns of Economic Growth: Searching for Hills among Plateaus, Mountains, and Plains," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 14(2), pages 221-50, May.
  13. Mendoza, Enrique G., 1997. "Terms-of-trade uncertainty and economic growth," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(2), pages 323-356, December.
  14. Gadi Barlevy, 2000. "Evaluating the Costs of Business Cycles in Models of Endogenous Growth," Discussion Papers 1287, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  15. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-69, July.
  16. Maurice Obstfeld, 1995. "Evaluating Risky Consumption Paths: The Role of Intertemporal Substitutability," NBER Technical Working Papers 0120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Jim Dolmas, 1998. "Risk Preferences and the Welfare Cost of Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 646-676, July.
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