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Learning and the Great Moderation

  • James B. Bullard
  • Aarti Singh

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 Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2007-027.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2007-027
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  1. S. Boragan Aruoba & Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Juan Francisco Rubio-Ramirez, 2003. "Comparing solution methods for dynamic equilibrium economies," Working Paper 2003-27, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
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  8. Milani, Fabio, 2014. "Learning and time-varying macroeconomic volatility," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 94-114.
  9. Giorgio Primiceri & Alejandro Justiniano, 2006. "The Time Varying Volatility of Macroeconomic Fluctuations," 2006 Meeting Papers 353, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. James B. Bullard & John Duffy, 2004. "Learning and structural change in macroeconomic data," Working Papers 2004-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  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. Michael T. Owyang & Jeremy Piger & Howard J. Wall & Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 2006. "A State-Level Analysis of the Great Moderation," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 131, Society for Computational Economics.
  17. Andres Arias & Gary D. Hansen & Lee E. Ohanian, 2006. "Why Have Business Cycle Fluctuations Become Less Volatile?," NBER Working Papers 12079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. 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.
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