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Uncertainty and Business Cycles: Exogenous Impulse or Endogenous Response?

Sydney C. Ludvigson, Sai Ma, Serena Ng

NBER Working Paper No. 21803
Issued in December 2015, Revised in May 2019
NBER Program(s):Asset Pricing Program, Economic Fluctuations and Growth Program, Monetary Economics Program

Uncertainty about the future rises in recessions. But is uncertainty a source of business cycles or an endogenous response to them, and does the type of uncertainty matter? We propose a novel SVAR identification strategy to address these questions via inequality constraints on the structural shocks. We find that sharply higher macroeconomic uncertainty in recessions is often an endogenous response to output shocks, while uncertainty about financial markets is a likely source of output fluctuations. But the findings also suggest that macroeconomic uncertainty plays an important role in recessions, by substantially amplifying downturns caused by other shocks.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21803

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