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Are policy counterfactuals based on structural VAR's reliable?

  • Benati, Luca

Based on standard New Keynesian models I show that policy counterfactuals based on the theoretical structural VAR representations of the models fail to reliably capture the impact of changes in the parameters of the Taylor rule on the (reduced-form) properties of the economy. Based on estimated models for the Great Inflation and the most recent period, I show that, as a practical matter, the problem appears to be non-negligible. These results imply that the outcomes of SVAR-based policy counterfactuals should be regarded with caution, as their informativeness for the specific issue at hand–e.g., understanding the role played by monetary policy in exacerbating the Great Depression, causing the Great Inflation, or fostering the Great Moderation–is, in principle, open to question. Finally, I argue that SVAR-based policy counterfactuals suffer from a crucial logical shortcoming: given that their reliability crucially depends on unknown structural characteristics of the underlying data generation process, such reliability cannot simply be assumed, and can instead only be ascertained with a reasonable degree of confidence by estimating structural (DSGE) models. JEL Classification: E30, E32

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Paper provided by European Central Bank in its series Working Paper Series with number 1188.

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Date of creation: May 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbwps:20101188
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  1. Michael T. Kiley, 2007. "Is Moderate-to-High Inflation Inherently Unstable?," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 3(2), pages 173-201, June.
  2. Thomas Lubik & Frank Schorfheide, 2002. "Testing for Indeterminacy:An Application to U.S. Monetary Policy," Economics Working Paper Archive 480, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics, revised Jun 2003.
  3. Javier Andrés & David López-Salido & Edward Nelson, 2008. "Money and the natural rate of interest: structural estimates for the United States and the euro area," Banco de Espa�a Working Papers 0805, Banco de Espa�a.
  4. Luca Benati, 2008. "Investigating Inflation Persistence Across Monetary Regimes," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 123(3), pages 1005-1060, August.
  5. Canova, Fabio & Gambetti, Luca & Pappa, Evi, 2006. "The Structural Dynamics of US Output and Inflation: What Explains the Changes?," CEPR Discussion Papers 5879, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Christopher A. Sims, 1998. "Role of interest rate policy in the generation and propagation of business cycles: what has changed since the '30s?," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 42(Jun), pages 121-175.
  7. Luca Benati & Paolo Surico, 2009. "VAR Analysis and the Great Moderation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1636-52, September.
  8. Clarida, Richard & Galí, Jordi & Gertler, Mark, 1998. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and Some Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 1908, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Guido Ascari, 2004. "Staggered Prices and Trend Inflation: Some Nuisances," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 7(3), pages 642-667, July.
  10. Benati, Luca, 2011. "Would the Bundesbank have prevented the Great Inflation in the United States?," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1106-1125, July.
  11. Fabio Canova & Luca Gambetti, 2003. "Structural changes in the US economy: is there a role for monetary policy?," Economics Working Papers 918, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Apr 2008.
  12. Orphanides, Athanasios, 2004. "Monetary policy in deflation: the liquidity trap in history and practice," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 101-124, March.
  13. Christopher A. Sims & Tao Zha, 2006. "Were There Regime Switches in U.S. Monetary Policy?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 54-81, March.
  14. Sungbae An & Frank Schorfheide, 2006. "Bayesian analysis of DSGE models," Working Papers 06-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  15. 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.
  16. Sims, Christopher A, 1980. "Macroeconomics and Reality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(1), pages 1-48, January.
  17. Benati, Luca & Goodhart, Charles, 2010. "Monetary Policy Regimes and Economic Performance: The Historical Record, 1979-2008," Handbook of Monetary Economics, in: Benjamin M. Friedman & Michael Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Monetary Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 21, pages 1159-1236 Elsevier.
  18. Lubik, Thomas A. & Schorfheide, Frank, 2003. "Computing sunspot equilibria in linear rational expectations models," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 273-285, November.
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