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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
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  1. 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.
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  3. 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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  8. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
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  16. Jose Maria Da Rocha & Diego Restuccia, 2002. "Aggregate Employment Fluctuations and Agricultural Share," Working Papers diegor-02-02, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  17. Horvath, Michael, 2000. "Sectoral shocks and aggregate fluctuations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 69-106, February.
  18. 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.
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