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Changes in Business Cycles: Evidence and Explanations

  • Christina D. Romer

This paper analyzes changes in American business cycles over the twentieth century and suggests a possible explanation for the major changes that have and have not occurred. The empirical analysis shows that the volatility of annual real macroeconomic indicators and the average severity of recessions have declined only slightly between the pre-World War I and post-World War II eras. Recessions have, however, become somewhat less frequent and more uniform. The paper goes on to suggest that the advent of macroeconomic policy after World War II can account for both the continuity and the changes in business cycles. Countercyclical monetary policy and automatic stabilizers have prolonged postwar expansions and prevented severe depressions. At the same time, policy-induced booms and recessions have led to the continued volatility of the postwar economy.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w6948.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 6948.

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Date of creation: Feb 1999
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Publication status: published as Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 13, no. 2 (Spring 1999): 23-44.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:6948
Note: DAE EFG ME
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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  1. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn61-1, 07.
  2. John B. Taylor, 1998. "An Historical Analysis of Monetary Policy Rules," NBER Working Papers 6768, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Francis X. Diebold & Glenn D. Rudebusch, 1990. "Have postwar economic fluctuations been stabilized?," Discussion Paper / Institute for Empirical Macroeconomics 33, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  5. Romer, Christina D, 1986. "Is the Stabilization of the Postwar Economy a Figment of the Data?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(3), pages 314-34, June.
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  9. J. Bradford DeLong, 1998. "Fiscal Policy in the Shadow of the Great Depression," NBER Chapters, in: The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, pages 67-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1994. "What Ends Recessions?," NBER Working Papers 4765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1994. "What Ends Recessions?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 13-80 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Matthew D. Shapiro, 1994. "Federal Reserve Policy: Cause and Effect," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Policy, pages 307-334 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Sheffrin, Steven M., 1988. "Have economic fluctuations been dampened? : A look at evidence outside the United States," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 73-83, January.
  13. 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.
  14. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1997. "Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rome97-1, 07.
  15. Shapiro, Matthew D, 1988. "The Stabilization of the U.S. Economy: Evidence from the Stock Marke t," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1067-79, December.
  16. Bernanke, Ben S, 1990. "Clearing and Settlement during the Crash," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 3(1), pages 133-51.
  17. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H., 1989. "Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt5h07k8vf, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  18. Romer, Christina D., 1994. "Remeasuring Business Cycles," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 573-609, September.
  19. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H. (ed.), 1997. "Reducing Inflation," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226724843.
  20. Romer, Christina D. & Romer, David H., 1994. "Monetary policy matters," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 75-88, August.
  21. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  22. Martin Neil Baily, 1978. "Stabilization Policy and Private Economic Behavior," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 9(1), pages 11-60.
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