Discussion Paper Details

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Title: Learning and the Great Moderation

Author(s): James B. Bullard and Aarti Singh

Publication Date: August 2009

Keyword(s): Bayesian learning, business cycles, information and regime-switching

Programme Area(s): International Macroeconomics

Abstract: 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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Bibliographic Reference

Bullard, J and Singh, A. 2009. 'Learning and the Great Moderation'. London, Centre for Economic Policy Research.