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Learning and the Great Moderation

  • Bullard, James
  • Singh, Aarti

We study a stylized theory of the volatility reduction in the U.S. after 1984—the Great Moderation—which attributes part of the stabilization to less volatile shocks and another part to more difficult inference on the part of Bayesian households attempting to learn the latent state of the economy. We use a standard equilibrium business cycle model with technology following an unobserved regime-switching process. After 1984, according to Kim and Nelson (1999a), the variance of U.S. macroeconomic aggregates declined because boom and recession regimes moved closer together, keeping conditional variance unchanged. In our model this makes the signal extraction problem more difficult for Bayesian households, and in response they moderate their behavior, reinforcing the effect of the less volatile stochastic technology and contributing an extra measure of moderation to the economy. We construct example economies in which this learning effect accounts for about 30 percent of a volatility reduction of the magnitude observed in the postwar U.S. data.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2123/7092
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Paper provided by University of Sydney, School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2009-01.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:syd:wpaper:2123/7092
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  1. Clarida, Richard & Galí, Jordi & Gertler, Mark, 1998. "Monetary Policy Rules and Macroeconomic Stability: Evidence and Some Theory," CEPR Discussion Papers 1908, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. S. Boragan Aruoba & Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde & Juan F. Rubio-Ramirez, 2003. "Comparing Solution Methods for Dynamic Equilibrium Economies," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-003, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles R. Nelson, 1999. "State-Space Models with Regime Switching: Classical and Gibbs-Sampling Approaches with Applications," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262112388, June.
  4. Christopher A. Sims & Tao Zha, 2005. "Were There Regime Switches in U.S. Monetary Policy?," Working Papers 92, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  5. Fabio Milani, 2007. "Learning and Time-Varying Macroeconomic Volatility," Working Papers 070802, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  6. Shaghil Ahmed & Andrew Levin & Beth Anne Wilson, 2002. "Recent U.S. macroeconomic stability: good policies, good practices or good luck?," International Finance Discussion Papers 730, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. David Andolfatto & Paul Gomme, 1997. "Monetary Policy Regimes and Beliefs," Working Papers 97002, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Jan 1997.
  8. Andres Arias & Gary Hansen & Lee Ohanian, 2007. "Why have business cycle fluctuations become less volatile?," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 32(1), pages 43-58, July.
  9. Giorgio E. Primiceri, 2005. "Time Varying Structural Vector Autoregressions and Monetary Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 821-852.
  10. Chang-Jin Kim & Charles Nelson & Jeremy M. Piger, 2003. "The less volatile U.S. economy: a Bayesian investigation of timing, breadth, and potential explanations," Working Papers 2001-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  11. James B. Bullard & John Duffy, 2004. "Learning and structural change in macroeconomic data," Working Papers 2004-016, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  12. Margaret M. McConnell & Gabriel Perez Quiros, 1998. "Output fluctuations in the United States: what has changed since the early 1980s?," Staff Reports 41, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  13. Van Nieuwerburgh, Stijn & Veldkamp, Laura, 2006. "Learning asymmetries in real business cycles," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(4), pages 753-772, May.
  14. Owyang, Michael T. & Piger, Jeremy & Wall, Howard J., 2008. "A state-level analysis of the Great Moderation," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 578-589, November.
  15. Hamilton, James D, 1989. "A New Approach to the Economic Analysis of Nonstationary Time Series and the Business Cycle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(2), pages 357-84, March.
  16. Jesús Fernández-Villaverde & Juan F. Rubio-Ramirez, 2006. "Estimating Macroeconomic Models: A Likelihood Approach," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000849, UCLA Department of Economics.
  17. Alejandro Justiniano & Giorgio E. Primiceri, 2006. "The Time Varying Volatility of Macroeconomic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 12022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Marco Cagetti & Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas Sargent & Noah Williams, 2002. "Robustness and Pricing with Uncertain Growth," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 363-404, March.
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