NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Natural Experiments in Macroeconomics

Nicola Fuchs-Schuendeln, Tarek Alexander Hassan

NBER Working Paper No. 21228
Issued in June 2015, Revised in January 2016
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, International Finance and Macroeconomics, International Trade and Investment, Monetary Economics, Public Economics, Political Economy

A growing literature relies on natural experiments to establish causal effects in macroeconomics. In diverse applications, natural experiments have been used to verify underlying assumptions of conventional models, quantify specific model parameters, and identify mechanisms that have major effects on macroeconomic quantities but are absent from conventional models. We discuss and compare the use of natural experiments across these different applications and summarize what they have taught us about such diverse subjects as the validity of the Permanent Income Hypothesis, the size of the fiscal multiplier, and about the effects of institutions, social structure, and culture on economic growth. We also outline challenges for future work in each of these fields, give guidance for identifying useful natural experiments, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the approach.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21228

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