Interpreting the Great Moderation: Changes in the Volatility of Economic Activity at the Macro and Micro Levels
Steven Davis () and
James Kahn ()
Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2008, vol. 22, issue 4, 155-80
Most advanced economies have experienced a striking decline in the volatility of aggregate economic activity since the early 1980s. Volatility reductions are evident for output and employment at the aggregate level and across most industrial sectors and expenditure categories. Inflation and inflation volatility have also declined dramatically. Previous studies offer several potential explanations for this "Great Moderation." We review evidence on the Great Moderation in conjunction with evidence about volatility trends at the micro level. We combine the two types of evidence to develop a tentative story for important components of the aggregate volatility decline and its consequences. The key ingredients are declines in firm-level volatility and aggregate volatility -- most dramatically in the durable goods sector. Surprisingly, this has occurred without a decline in household consumption volatility and individual earnings uncertainty. Our explanation for the aggregate volatility decline stresses improved supply-chain management, particularly in the durable goods sector, and, less important, a shift in production and employment from goods to services. We provide evidence that better inventory control made a substantial contribution to declines in firm-level and aggregate volatility. Consistent with this view, if we look past the turbulent 1970s and early 1980s much of the moderation reflects a decline in high frequency (short-term) fluctuations. While these developments represent efficiency gains, they do not imply (nor is there evidence for) a reduction in economic uncertainty faced by individuals and households.
JEL-codes: E21 E22 E23 E24 E32 E65 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.4.155
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations View citations in EconPapers (89) Track citations by RSS feed
Downloads: (external link)
Working Paper: Interpreting the Great Moderation: changes in the volatility of economic activity at the macro and micro Levels (2008)
Working Paper: Interpreting the Great Moderation: Changes in the Volatility of Economic Activity at the Macro and Micro Levels (2008)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:4:p:155-80
Ordering information: This journal article can be ordered from
Access Statistics for this article
Journal of Economic Perspectives is currently edited by David H. Autor
More articles in Journal of Economic Perspectives from American Economic Association Contact information at EDIRC.
Series data maintained by Jane Voros ().