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What is a Business Cycle?

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  • Victor Zarnowitz

Abstract

This paper considers the question in its title from several angles. Part 1 looks at economic history and the development of thinking about business cycles - the popular meaning and economists' definitions and ideas. Part 2 reviews the lessons from business cycle chronologies and duration data, the concepts of periodicity of cycles and phases, and the apparent moderation of macroeconomic fluctuations in the second half of the 20th century. Part 3 compares the recent business cycles and growth cycles for several major industrialized, market-oriented countries. Part 4 discusses the role of endogenous cyclical variables, the outside shocks of various types, the systematic timing sequences, and the regularities of cyclical comovements and amplitudes. Understanding business cycles is aided by each of these models of analysis. Business cycles have varied greatly over the past 200 years in length, spread, and size. At the same time, they are distinguished by their recurrence, persistence, and pervasiveness. They make up a class of varied, complex, and evolving phenomena of both history and economic dynamics. Theories or models that try to reduce them to a single causal mechanism or shock are unlikely to succeed.

Suggested Citation

  • Victor Zarnowitz, 1991. "What is a Business Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 3863, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3863
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Verne, Jean-François, 2011. "Les principales caractéristiques du cycle économique et de la croissance tendancielle au Liban," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 87(2), pages 117-136, juin.
    2. Vamerson Schwingel Ribeiro & Joilson Dias, 2004. "Índice De Atividade Econômica: Os Modelos De Filtro De Kalman E Box-Jenkins Comparados," Anais do XXXII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 32nd Brazilian Economics Meeting] 103, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    3. Noam, Eli M., 2006. "Fundamental instability: Why telecom is becoming a cyclical and oligopolistic industry," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 272-284, September.
    4. Carlo Di Giorgio, 2016. "Business Cycle Synchronization of CEECs with the Euro Area: A Regime Switching Approach," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2), pages 284-300, March.
    5. Stamfort, Stefan, 2005. "Berechnung trendbereinigter Indikatoren für Deutschland mit Hilfe von Filterverfahren," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 2005,19, Deutsche Bundesbank.

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