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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. Fernández-Villaverde, Jesús & Rubio-Ramírez, Juan Francisco, 2006. "Estimating Macroeconomic Models: A Likelihood Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 5513, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. 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.
  3. David Andolfatto & Paul Gomme, 2001. "Monetary policy regimes and beliefs," Working Paper 9905, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  4. Clarida, R. & Gali, J. & Gertler, M., 1998. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and some Theory," Working Papers 98-01, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  5. 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, December.
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  7. Fabio Milani, 2007. "Learning and Time-Varying Macroeconomic Volatility," Working Papers 070802, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  8. Gabriel Perez-Quiros & Margaret M. McConnell, 2000. "Output Fluctuations in the United States: What Has Changed since the Early 1980's?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1464-1476, December.
  9. Aruoba, S. Boragan & Fernandez-Villaverde, Jesus & Rubio-Ramirez, Juan F., 2006. "Comparing solution methods for dynamic equilibrium economies," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 30(12), pages 2477-2508, December.
  10. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson & Jeremy M. Piger, 2001. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," International Finance Discussion Papers 707, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  11. Alejandro Justiniano & Northwestern University, 2006. "The Time Varying Volatility of Macroeconomic Fluctuations," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 219, Society for Computational Economics.
  12. Michael T. Owyang & Jeremy M. Piger & Howard J. Wall, 2007. "A state-level analysis of the Great Moderation," Working Papers 2007-003, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  13. Shaghil Ahmed & Andrew T. Levin & Beth Anne Wilson, 2002. "Recent U.S. macroeconomic stability: good policies, good practices or good luck?," International Finance Discussion Papers 730, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  14. James H. Stock & Mark W. Watson, 2003. "Has the Business Cycle Changed and Why?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2002, Volume 17, pages 159-230 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Marco Cagetti & Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams, 2002. "Robustness and Pricing with Uncertain Growth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 363-404, March.
  16. Laura Veldkamp, 2003. "Learning Asymmetries in Real Business Cycles," Working Papers 03-21, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Department of Economics.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
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