Accounting for Business Cycles

Pedro Brinca

V.V. Chari, Consultant

Patrick J. Kehoe, Consultant

Ellen R. McGrattan, Consultant

2016 | Handbook of Macroeconomics, ed. John B. Taylor and Harald Uhlig, vol 2. ch. 13: 1013–1063

We elaborate on the business cycle accounting method proposed by Chari et al. (2006), clear up some misconceptions about the method, and then apply it to compare the Great Recession across OECD countries as well as to the recessions of the 1980s in these countries. We have four main findings. First, with the notable exception of the United States, Spain, Ireland, and Iceland, the Great Recession was driven primarily by the efficiency wedge. Second, in the Great Recession, the labor wedge plays a dominant role only in the United States, and the investment wedge plays a dominant role in Spain, Ireland, and Iceland. Third, in the recessions of the 1980s, the labor wedge played a dominant role only in France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium. Finally, overall in the Great Recession, the efficiency wedge played a more important role and the investment wedge played a less important role than they did in the recessions of the 1980s.