Working Papers

February 1994, No. 94-1

Variance Properties of Solow's Productivity Residual and Their Cyclical Implications

Mary G. Finn

For the United States economy (1960-1989), the correlation between the growth rates of the Solow residual and the real price of energy (government spending) is -0.55 (0.09). The Solow residual confounds movements in energy prices and government spending with those in true technology. Why? To address this question, this study develops a model to see if it quantitatively captures the endogenous transmission mechanism underlying the observed Solow residual correlations. It does. The transmission mechanism depends on endogenous capital utilization. With this transmission mechanism in place, and with the occurrence of shocks to 'true' technology, energy prices, and government spending, the model economy accounts for 76 or 89 percent of U.S. output volatility, well matches the U.S. empirical regularities involving capital utilization and the Solow residual, and is generally consistent with other features of U.S. business cycles.

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