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An Improved Annual Chronology of U.S. Business Cycles since the 1790's


  • Joseph H. Davis


The NBER's pre-WWI chronology of annual peaks and troughs has the remarkable implication that the U.S. economy spent nearly every other year in recession, although previous research has argued that the post-Civil War dates are flawed. This paper extends that research by redating annual peaks and troughs for the entire 1796-1914 period using a single metric: Davis' (2004) annual industrial production index. The new pre-WWI chronology alters more than 40% of the peak and troughs, and removes cycles long considered the most questionable. An important implication of the new chronology is the lack of discernible differences in the frequency and duration of industrial cycles among the pre-Civil War, Civil War to WWI, and post-WWII periods. Of course, my comparison between pre-WWI and post-WWII cycles is limited by its reliance on a single annual index (as opposed to many monthly series) that is less comprehensive than GDP.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph H. Davis, 2005. "An Improved Annual Chronology of U.S. Business Cycles since the 1790's," NBER Working Papers 11157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11157
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Diebold, Francis X & Rudebusch, Glenn D, 1992. "Have Postwar Economic Fluctuations Been Stabilized?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 993-1005, September.
    2. Romer, Christina D., 1994. "Remeasuring Business Cycles," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 573-609, September.
    3. Arthur F. Burns & Wesley C. Mitchell, 1946. "Measuring Business Cycles," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number burn46-1, January.
    4. Paul W. Rhode, 2002. "Gallman's Annual Output Series for the United States, 1834-1909," NBER Working Papers 8860, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Paul A. Samuelson, 1998. "Summing up on business cycles: opening address," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 42(Jun), pages 33-36.
    6. Balke, Nathan S & Gordon, Robert J, 1989. "The Estimation of Prewar Gross National Product: Methodology and New Evidence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(1), pages 38-92, February.
    7. Frederic S. Mishkin, 1991. "Asymmetric Information and Financial Crises: A Historical Perspective," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Markets and Financial Crises, pages 69-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Willard Long Thorp, 1926. "Business Annals," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number thor26-1, January.
    9. Jeffrey C. Fuhrer & Scott Schuh, 1998. "Beyond shocks: what causes business cycles?," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 42(Jun).
    10. Douglas A. Irwin & Joseph H. Davis, 2003. "Trade Disruptions and America's Early Industrialization," NBER Working Papers 9944, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bruce T. Grimm, 2005. "Alternative Measures of U.S. Economic Activity in Business Cycles and Business Cycle Dating," BEA Papers 0052, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations
    • E3 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles

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