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Has Macro-Forecasting Failed?

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  • Victor Zarnowitz

Abstract

The answer to this question depends on the treatment of logically and empirically prior questions about (1) what the forecasts are and why they are needed, and (2) what can reasonably be expected of them. Further, what forecasters can and should do cannot be established without studying the record and assessing the probable future of their endeavors. Accordingly, the basic approach taken in this paper is to ask of the assembled data what professional standards have economists engaged in macro-forecasting been able to attain and maintain in competing with each other and alternative methods. There is much disenchantment with economic forecasting. The difficult question is how much of it is due to unacceptably poor performance and how much to unrealistically high prior expectations. My argument is that the latter is a major factor. In times of continuing expansion with restrained inflation, as in the 1960s, macro-forecasts looked good and economists were held in high repute. Later when inflation accelerated, serious recessions reappeared, and long-term growth of productivity and total output slackened, the errors of macroeconomic models and forecasts, and the old and new controversies among the economists, received increased public attention. The reputation of the profession suffered, and the interest of academic economists in forecasting, never very strong, weakened still more. Yet the performance of professional economic forecasters, when assessed proper relative terms, has been considerably better in recent times than in the earlier post-World War II period. What happened is that the improvements fell short of enabling the forecasters to cope with the new problems they faced.

Suggested Citation

  • Victor Zarnowitz, 1991. "Has Macro-Forecasting Failed?," NBER Working Papers 3867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3867 Note: EFG
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    Cited by:

    1. Antzoulatos, Angelos A., 1998. "Macroeconomic forecasts under the prism of error-correction models," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 50(6), pages 535-550, November.
    2. Loungani, Prakash, 2001. "How accurate are private sector forecasts? Cross-country evidence from consensus forecasts of output growth," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 419-432.
    3. Fintzen, David & Stekler, H. O., 1999. "Why did forecasters fail to predict the 1990 recession?," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 309-323, July.
    4. Higgins, Huong Ngo, 2002. "Analysts' forecasts of Japanese firms' earnings: additional evidence," The International Journal of Accounting, Elsevier, vol. 37(4), pages 371-394.
    5. Karine Bouthevillain & Alexandre Mathis, 1995. "Prévisions : mesures, erreurs et principaux résultats," Économie et Statistique, Programme National Persée, vol. 285(1), pages 89-100.
    6. Antzoulatos, Angelos A., 1996. "Consumer credit and consumption forecasts," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 439-453, December.
    7. Karine Bouthevillain, 1993. "La prévision macro-économique : précision relative et consensus," Économie et Prévision, Programme National Persée, vol. 108(2), pages 97-126.

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