NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Variable Factor Utilization and International Business Cycles

Marianne Baxter, Dorsey Farr

NBER Working Paper No. 8392
Issued in July 2001
NBER Program(s):   EFG   IFM   ITI

When an economic boom produces high output, employment, and investment in the United States, there is usually a simultaneous boom in other industrialized countries. But, why? Answering this question is a central goal of international macroeconomics. However, multi-country dynamic equilibrium models have struggled with two major problems. The first difficulty is that the productivity shocks required by the model are implausibly large and volatile. Second, these models have difficulty explaining why factor inputs move together so closely across countries: realistic international comovement of business cycles requires implausibly high cross-country correlations of productivity shocks. This paper builds a model in which the utilization rates of capital and labor can be varied in response to shocks. We find that variable factor utilization is quite successful in (i) reducing the required size of productivity shocks; and (ii) increasing international comovement of factor inputs, with most of the improvement stemming from variable capital utilization.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8392

Published: Baxter, Marianne and Dorsey D. Farr. "Variable Capital Utilization And International Business Cycles," Journal of International Economics, 2005, v65(2,Mar), 335-347.

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