Essays on Macroeconomic Volatility and the Great Moderation



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This dissertation is a collection of two essays on the macroeconomic volatility and the Great Moderation. The first essay examines the causes of the Great Moderation in United States, while the second essay takes an international approach in examining if the Great Moderation was one or multiple events for the industrialized countries. The first essay analyzes the causes of the large decline in aggregate volatility for the United States, phenomenon known as the Great Moderation, one of the most widely recognized characteristics of the modern U.S. economy. However, the literature found no consensus on what caused it. In order to uncover the causes of the Great Moderation we use a new measure of volatility based on the first difference of quarterly growth rates, and a novel approach, exploiting a test for common features. We first test each series for structural change(s) in volatility, and then test for a common feature of a decrease in volatility between the volatility of output and volatility of potential causes of the Great Moderation for both the period prior to the Great Recession (2007:4) and the whole sample through 2010:4. When all the evidence is considered, structural changes in the economy, including increased globalization and improved inventory management, improved monetary policy, and good luck, all appear to have played a significant role, while financial market innovations are unlikely to be a cause of the Great Moderation. The second essay analyzes if the Great Moderation is one event internationally, common across countries, or multiple events. The Great Moderation has been identified in several advanced economies as a general decrease in the volatility of GDP growth, and it is still viewed as one time event. We use structural break test to date the onset of the Great Moderation in eleven developed countries and employ the test for common features in order to determine if the moderation in volatility is common across countries (one event), or if it is more than one event. While we establish that all of the countries studied display a break dating from the late 1970s to mid- 1980s and early 1990s, we discover the moderation of volatility evident in international data is neither concurrent, nor of similar magnitude. We can use this new information to enlighten our search for the cause(s) of the Great Moderation by both eliminating potential causes and increasing the ability to distinguish between causality and coincidence.



Great Moderation, Volatility, Common Features, Structural Change