IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The great diversification and its undoing

  • Vasco Carvalho
  • Xavier Gabaix

We investigate the hypothesis that macroeconomic fluctuations are primitively the results of many microeconomic shocks, and show that it has significant explanatory power for the evolution of macroeconomic volatility. We define “fundamental” volatility as the volatility that would arise from an economy made entirely of idiosyncratic microeconomic shocks, occurring primitively at the level of sectors or firms. In its empirical construction, motivated by a simple model, the sales share of different sectors vary over time (in a way we directly measure), while the volatility of those sectors remains constant. We find that fundamental volatility accounts for the swings in macroeconomic volatility in the US and the other major world economies in the past half century. It accounts for the “great moderation” and its undoing. Controlling for our measure of fundamental volatility, there is no break in output volatility. The initial great moderation is due to a decreasing share of manufacturing between 1975 and 1985. The recent rise of macroeconomic volatility is due to the increase of the size of the financial sector. We provide a model to think quantitatively about the large comovement generated by idiosyncratic shocks. As the origin of aggregate shocks can be traced to identifiable microeconomic shocks, we may better understand the origins of aggregate fluctuations.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Whole Paper
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1208.

in new window

Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision: Oct 2010
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1208
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Susanto Basu & John Fernald & Miles Kimball, 2002. "Are Technology Improvements Contractionary?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1986, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  2. 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.
  3. Julian di Giovanni & Andrei A. Levchenko, 2009. "International Trade and Aggregate Fluctuations in Granular Economies," Working Papers 585, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  4. Daron Acemoglu & Asuman Ozdaglar & Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi, 2010. "Cascades in Networks and Aggregate Volatility," NBER Working Papers 16516, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jean Imbs & Romain Wacziarg, 2003. "Stages of Diversification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 63-86, March.
  6. Vadym Volosovych & Bent E. Sørensen & Sebnem Kalemli-Ozcan, 2010. "Deep Financial Integration and Volatility," 2010 Meeting Papers 232, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  7. Dupor, Bill, 1999. "Aggregation and irrelevance in multi-sector models," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 391-409, April.
  8. Alejandro Justiniano & Giorgio E. Primiceri, 2006. "The Time Varying Volatility of Macroeconomic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 12022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. M Sensier & D van Dijk, 2003. "Testing for Volatility Changes in US Macroeconomic Time Series," Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research Discussion Paper Series 36, Economics, The Univeristy of Manchester.
  10. Francisco J. Buera & Joseph P. Kaboski, 2012. "The Rise of the Service Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(6), pages 2540-69, October.
  11. Vasco M Carvalho, 2008. "Aggregate Fluctuations and the Network Structure of Intersectoral Trade," 2008 Meeting Papers 1062, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  12. Gabriel Perez-Quiros & Margaret M. McConnell, 2000. "Output Fluctuations in the United States: What Has Changed since the Early 1980's?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1464-1476, December.
  13. Henry Siu & Nir Jaimovich, 2007. "The Young, the Old, and the Restless: Demographics and Business Cycle Volatility," 2007 Meeting Papers 521, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  14. Alessio Moro, 2012. "The Structural Transformation Between Manufacturing and Services and the Decline in the US GDP Volatility," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 15(3), pages 402-415, July.
  15. Jordi Gali & Luca Gambetti, 2008. "On the Sources of the Great Moderation," NBER Working Papers 14171, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Xavier Gabaix, 2009. "The Granular Origins of Aggregate Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 15286, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Marcel P. Timmer & Mary O’Mahony & Bart van Ark, 2007. "EU KLEMS Growth and Productivity Accounts: An Overview," International Productivity Monitor, Centre for the Study of Living Standards, vol. 14, pages 71-85, Spring.
  18. Nirei, Makoto, 2006. "Threshold behavior and aggregate fluctuation," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 127(1), pages 309-322, March.
  19. repec:oup:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:3:p:1103-1144 is not listed on IDEAS
  20. repec:oup:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:3:p:739-767 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Andrew T. Foerster & Pierre-Daniel G. Sarte & Mark W. Watson, 2011. "Sectoral versus Aggregate Shocks: A Structural Factor Analysis of Industrial Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(1), pages 1 - 38.
  22. Olivier Blanchard & John Simon, 2001. "The Long and Large Decline in U.S. Output Volatility," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 32(1), pages 135-174.
  23. 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.
  24. Zhongjun Qu & Pierre Perron, 2005. "Estimating and testing structural changes in multivariate regressions," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2005-012, Boston University - Department of Economics.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. The Great Diversification and Its Undoing (AER 2013) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1208. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.