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Have Postwar Economic Fluctuations Been Stabilized?

Discussion Paper 33 | Published November 1, 1990

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Authors

Francis X. Diebold

Glenn D. Rudebusch

Have Postwar Economic Fluctuations Been Stabilized?

Abstract

Previous investigations of whether the volatility of the U.S. economy diminished after World War II have been inconclusive because of questionable prewar macroeconomic aggregates. We examine, more broadly, the hypothesis of the stabilization of the postwar economy by focusing on the duration of business cycles, rather than their amplitude; in the process, we avoid the debate about the quality of prewar aggregates. Using distribution-free statistics, we find clear evidence of postwar duration stabilization in terms of a shift toward longer expansions and shorter contractions. Moreover, we find no shift in whole-cycle durations, which suggests a reallocation of the business cycle away from contraction and toward expansion.