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The Role of Agriculture in Aggregate Business Cycle Fluctuations

  • Jose Maria Da Rocha
  • Diego Restuccia

The agricultural sector has certain distinctive features over the business cycle: it is more volatile than and not positively correlated with the rest of the economy and its employment is counter-cyclical. Because of these features and even though the agricultural sector represents less than 2% of the U.S. economy, we show that agriculture plays an essential role in understanding aggregate business cycles. The inclusion of agriculture into standard business cycle analysis resolves the longstanding problems of the standard theory in matching the observed volatility of aggregate labor and the correlation of aggregate labor and productivity (the so called Dunlop-Tharshis observation). In addition, the role of agriculture in the economy can account for the substantial differences observed in business cycle patterns across countries. This novel implication of the model is consistent with the systematic relationship observed between business cycle patterns and the share of agriculture across countries. Our theory has two important implications. First, the model implies that as the size of the agricultural sector falls, business cycle properties across countries should converge. Second, the role of agriculture provides a simple, measurable, and contrastable explanation for the historical properties of aggregate business cycles documented by Backus and Kehoe (1992).

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Paper provided by University of Toronto, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number diegor-02-04.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: 11 Jul 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:tor:tecipa:diegor-02-04
Contact details of provider: Postal: 150 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario
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  1. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
  2. Backus, David K & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1992. "International Evidence of the Historical Properties of Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 864-88, September.
  3. Benhabib, Jess & Rogerson, Richard & Wright, Randall, 1991. "Homework in Macroeconomics: Household Production and Aggregate Fluctuations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(6), pages 1166-87, December.
  4. King, Robert G. & Rebelo, Sergio T., 1999. "Resuscitating real business cycles," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 14, pages 927-1007 Elsevier.
  5. Jordi Gali, 1996. "Technology, Employment, and the Business Cycle: Do Technology Shocks Explain Aggregate Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 5721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Horvath, Michael, 2000. "Sectoral shocks and aggregate fluctuations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 69-106, February.
  7. Long, John B, Jr & Plosser, Charles I, 1983. "Real Business Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 39-69, February.
  8. McGrattan, Ellen R, 1990. "Solving the Stochastic Growth Model by Linear-Quadratic Approximation," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 8(1), pages 41-44, January.
  9. Huffman, Gregory W. & Wynne, Mark A., 1999. "The role of intratemporal adjustment costs in a multisector economy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 317-350, April.
  10. Jose Maria Da Rocha & Diego Restuccia, 2002. "Aggregate Employment Fluctuations and Agricultural Share," Working Papers diegor-02-02, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  11. Marco Maffezzoli, 2001. "Non-Walrasian Labor Markets and Real Business Cycles," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 4(4), pages 860-892, October.
  12. Jean-Pierre DANTHINE & John B. DONALDSON, 1991. "Methodological and Empirical Issues in Real Business Cycle Theory," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 9102, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
  13. Hansen, Gary D., 1985. "Indivisible labor and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 309-327, November.
  14. Neville Francis & Valerie A. Ramey, 2002. "Is the Technology-Driven Real Business Cycle Hypothesis Dead?," NBER Working Papers 8726, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. 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.
  16. Edward C. Prescott, 1986. "Theory ahead of business cycle measurement," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Fall, pages 9-22.
  17. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum, 1990. "Current real business cycle theories and aggregate labor market fluctuations," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 90, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  18. Fiorito, Riccardo & Kollintzas, Tryphon, 1994. "Stylized facts of business cycles in the G7 from a real business cycles perspective," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 235-269, February.
  19. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
  20. Conesa, Juan Carlos & Diaz-Moreno, Carlos & Galdon-Sanchez, Jose Enrique, 2002. "Explaining cross-country differences in participation rates and aggregate fluctuations," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 333-345, February.
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