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Fluctuations in Uncertainty

  • Nicholas Bloom

This review article tries to answer four questions: (i) what are the stylized facts about uncertainty over time; (ii) why does uncertainty vary; (iii) do fluctuations in uncertainty matter; and (iv) did higher uncertainty worsen the Great Recession of 2007-2009? On the first question both macro and micro uncertainty appears to rise sharply in recessions. On the second question the types of exogenous shocks like wars, financial panics and oil price jumps that cause recessions appear to directly increase uncertainty, and uncertainty also appears to endogenously rise further during recessions. On the third question, the evidence suggests uncertainty is damaging for short-run investment and hiring, but there is some evidence it may stimulate longer-run innovation. Finally, in terms of the Great Recession, the large jump in uncertainty in 2008 potentially accounted for about one third of the drop in GDP.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19714.

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Date of creation: Dec 2013
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Publication status: published as Nicholas Bloom, 2014. "Fluctuations in Uncertainty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(2), pages 153-76, Spring.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19714
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