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Have postwar economic fluctuations been stabilized?

  • Francis X. Diebold
  • Glenn D. Rudebusch

Previous investigations of whether the volatility of the U.S. economy diminished after World War II have been inconclusive because of questionable prewar macroeconomic aggregates. We examine, more broadly, the hypothesis of the stabilization of the postwar economy by focusing on the duration of business cycles, rather than their amplitude; in the process, we avoid the debate about the quality of prewar aggregates. Using distribution-free statistics, we find clear evidence of postwar duration stabilization in terms of a shift toward longer expansions and shorter contractions. Moreover, we find no shift in whole-cycle durations, which suggests a reallocation of the business cycle away from contraction and toward expansion.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics with number 33.

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Date of creation: 1990
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmem:33
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  1. Francis X. Diebold & Glenn D. Rudebusch, 1988. "A nonparametric investigation of duration dependence in the American business cycle," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 90, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Robert J. Gordon & Arthur M. Okun & Herbert Stein, 1980. "Postwar Macroeconomics: The Evolution of Events and Ideas," NBER Chapters, in: The American Economy in Transition, pages 101-182 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Meyer, Bruce D, 1990. "Unemployment Insurance and Unemployment Spells," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(4), pages 757-82, July.
  4. J. Bradford De Long & Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "The Changing Cyclical Variability of Economic Activity in the United States," NBER Working Papers 1450, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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