Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi

The Network Origins of Large Economic Downturns

Coauthor(s): Daron Acemoglu, Asuman Ozdaglar.


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This paper shows that large economic downturns may result from the propagation of microeconomic shocks over the input-output linkages across different firms or sectors within the economy. Building on the framework of Acemoglu et al. (2012), we argue that the economy's input-output structure can fundamentally reshape the distribution of aggregate output, increasing the likelihood of large downturns from infinitesimal to substantial. More specifically, we show that an economy with non-trivial intersectoral input-output linkages that is subject to thin-tailed productivity shocks may exhibit deep recessions as frequently as economies that are subject to heavy-tailed shocks. Moreover, we show that in the presence of input-output linkages, aggregate volatility is not necessarily a sufficient statistic for the likelihood of large downturns. Rather, depending on the shape of the distribution of the idiosyncratic shocks, different features of the economy's input-output network may be of first-order importance. Finally, our results establish that the effects of the economy's input-output structure and the nature of the idiosyncratic firm-level shocks on aggregate output are not separable, in the sense that the likelihood of large economic downturns is determined by the interplay between the two.

Exact Citation:
Acemoglu, Daron, Asuman Ozdaglar, and Alireza Tahbaz-Salehi. "The Network Origins of Large Economic Downturns." Columbia Business School, June 2013.
Date: 6 2013