Staff Report 328

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Business Cycle Accounting

V. V. Chari - Consultant
Patrick J. Kehoe - Consultant
Ellen R. McGrattan - Consultant

Revised December 1, 2006

We propose a simple method to help researchers develop quantitative models of economic fluctuations. The method rests on the insight that many models are equivalent to a prototype growth model with time-varying wedges which resemble productivity, labor and investment taxes, and government consumption. Wedges corresponding to these variables—efficiency, labor, investment, and government consumption wedges—are measured and then fed back into the model in order to assess the fraction of various fluctuations they account for. Applying this method to U.S. data for the Great Depression and the 1982 recession reveals that the efficiency and labor wedges together account for essentially all of the fluctuations; the investment wedge plays a decidedly tertiary role, and the government consumption wedge, none. Analyses of the entire postwar period and alternative model specifications support these results. Models with frictions manifested primarily as investment wedges are thus not promising for the study of business cycles. (See Additional Material for a response to Christiano and Davis (2006).)

RELATED PAPERS: Quarterly Review article (Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring 2003) Accounting for the Great Depression and Staff Report 362 Appendices: Business Cycle Accounting

Published In: Econometrica (Vol. 75, No. 3, May 2007, pp. 781-836)

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