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Measuring economic policy uncertainty

Listed author(s):
  • Baker, Scott R.
  • Bloom, Nicholas
  • Davis, Steven J.

We develop a new index of economic policy uncertainty (EPU) based on newspaper coverage frequency. Several types of evidence – including human readings of 12,000 newspaper articles – indicate that our index proxies for movements in policy-related economic uncertainty. Our US index spikes near tight presidential elections, Gulf Wars I and II, the 9/11 attacks, the failure of Lehman Brothers, the 2011 debt-ceiling dispute and other major battles over fiscal policy. Using firm-level data, we find that policy uncertainty raises stock price volatility and reduces investment and employment in policy-sensitive sectors like defense, healthcare, and infrastructure construction. At the macro level, policy uncertainty innovations foreshadow declines in investment, output, and employment in the United States and, in a panel VAR setting, for 12 major economies. Extending our US index back to 1900, EPU rose dramatically in the 1930s (from late 1931) and has drifted upwards since the 1960s.

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File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/64986/
File Function: Open access version.
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Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 64986.

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Length: 77 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2015
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:64986
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  1. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger & Ron Jarmin & Javier Miranda, 2007. "Volatility and Dispersion in Business Growth Rates: Publicly Traded versus Privately Held Firms," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2006, Volume 21, pages 107-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Policy uncertainty and private investment in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 229-242, October.
  3. Susanto Basu & Brent Bundick, 2011. "Uncertainty Shocks in a Model of Effective Demand," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 774, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 01 Nov 2015.
  4. Shoag, Daniel & Veuger, Stan, 2016. "Uncertainty and the geography of the great recession," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 84-93.
  5. Lubos Pástor & Pietro Veronesi, 2012. "Uncertainty about Government Policy and Stock Prices," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 67(4), pages 1219-1264, August.
  6. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Pablo Guerrón-Quintana & Keith Kuester & Juan Rubio-Ramírez, 2015. "Fiscal Volatility Shocks and Economic Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(11), pages 3352-3384, November.
  7. Marina Azzimonti, 2015. "Partisan Conflict and Private Investment," NBER Working Papers 21273, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Pástor, Ľuboš & Veronesi, Pietro, 2013. "Political uncertainty and risk premia," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(3), pages 520-545.
  9. Belo, Frederico & Gala, Vito D. & Li, Jun, 2013. "Government spending, political cycles, and the cross section of stock returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 305-324.
  10. Nicholas Bloom & Max Floetotto & Nir Jaimovich & Itay Saporta-Eksten & Stephen J. Terry, 2012. "Really Uncertain Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 18245, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Kyle Handley & Nuno Limão, 2015. "Trade and Investment under Policy Uncertainty: Theory and Firm Evidence," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 189-222, November.
  12. Francesco Giavazzi & Michael McMahon, 2012. "Policy Uncertainty and Household Savings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(2), pages 517-531, May.
  13. R?diger Bachmann & Steffen Elstner & Eric R. Sims, 2013. "Uncertainty and Economic Activity: Evidence from Business Survey Data," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 217-249, April.
  14. Gerard Hoberg & Gordon Phillips, 2010. "Product Market Synergies and Competition in Mergers and Acquisitions: A Text-Based Analysis," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(10), pages 3773-3811, October.
  15. Matthew Gentzkow & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2010. "What Drives Media Slant? Evidence From U.S. Daily Newspapers," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(1), pages 35-71, January.
  16. Jacob Boudoukh & Ronen Feldman & Shimon Kogan & Matthew Richardson, 2013. "Which News Moves Stock Prices? A Textual Analysis," NBER Working Papers 18725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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