Working Papers

2021-22 | September 2021

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Turbulent Business Cycles

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Recessions are associated with sharp increases in turbulence that reshuffles firms' productivity rankings. To study the business cycle implications of turbulence shocks, we use Compustat data to construct a measure of turbulence based on the (inverse of) Spearman correlations of firms' productivity rankings between adjacent years. We document evidence that turbulence rises in recessions, reallocating labor and capital from high-to low-productivity firms and reducing aggregate TFP and the stock market value of firms. A real business cycle model with heterogeneous firms and financial frictions can generate the observed macroeconomic and reallocation effects of turbulence. In the model, increased turbulence makes high-productivity firms less likely to remain productive, reducing their expected equity values and tightening their borrowing constraints relative to low-productivity firms. Thus, labor and capital are reallocated to low-productivity firms, reducing aggregate TFP and generating a recession with synchronized declines in aggregate output, consumption, investment, and labor hours, in line with empirical evidence.

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Article Citation

Dong, Ding, Zheng Liu, and Pengfei Wang. 2021. "Turbulent Business Cycles," Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Working Paper 2021-22. Available at https://doi.org/10.24148/wp2021-22