Microeconomic Origins of Macroeconomic Tail Risks

Daron Acemoglu, Asuman Ozdaglar, Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi

NBER Working Paper No. 20865
Issued in January 2015, Revised in August 2015
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Monetary Economics

We document that even though the normal distribution provides a good approximation to GDP fluctuations, it severely underpredicts “macroeconomic tail risks,” that is, the frequency of large economic downturns. Using a multi-sector general equilibrium model, we show that the interplay of idiosyncratic microeconomic shocks and sectoral heterogeneity results in systematic departures in the likelihood of large economic downturns relative to what is implied by the normal distribution. Notably, we also show that such departures can happen while GDP is approximately normally distributed away from the tails, highlighting the qualitatively different behavior of large economic downturns from small or moderate fluctuations. We further demonstrate the special role that input-output linkages play in generating “tail comovements,” whereby large recessions involve not only significant GDP contractions, but also large simultaneous declines across a wide range of sectors.

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Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20865

Published: Daron Acemoglu & Asuman Ozdaglar & Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi, 2017. "Microeconomic Origins of Macroeconomic Tail Risks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(1), pages 54-108, January. citation courtesy of

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