Discussion Paper 24

Current Real Business Cycle Theories and Aggregate Labor Market Fluctuations

Lawrence J. Christiano | Consultant
Martin Eichenbaum

Published January 1, 1990

In the 1930s, Dunlop and Tarshis observed that the correlation between hours worked and the return to working is close to zero. This observation has become a litmus test by which macroeconomic models are judged. Existing real business cycle models fail this test dramatically. Based on this result, we argue that technology shocks cannot be the sole impulse driving post-war U.S. business cycles. We modify prototypical real business cycle models by allowing government consumption shocks to influence labor market dynamics in a way suggested by Aschauer (1985), Baro (1981, 1987), and Kormendi (1983). This modification can, in principle, bring the models into closer conformity with the data. Our results indicate that when aggregate demand shocks arising from stochastic movements in government consumption are incorporated into the analysis, and an empirically plausible degree of measurement error is allowed for, the model’s empirical performance is substantially improved.

Published In: Real business cycles: A reader (1998, pp. 179-199)
Published In: Business cycle theory (1995, pp. 397-417)
Published In: American Economic Review (Vol. 82, No. 3, June 1992, pp. 430-450)

Download Paper (pdf)