2017/24 LEM Working Paper Series

Aggregate fluctuations and the distribution of firm growth rates

Giulio Bottazzi, Le Li and Angelo Secchi
Firm growth rates asymmetry and volatility; Aggregate economic fluctuations and business cycles; Aggregation of non-normal variables

  JEL Classifications
C13, D22, E3, L25

We propose an aggregate growth index that explicitly accounts for fat tails in the firm size distribution and for the negative scaling relation between the size of the firm and the volatility of its growth rates. Using Compustat data on US publicly traded company, we show that the new index tracks aggregate fluctuations much better than simpler measures of central tendency of the dynamics of firms, like the growth rates sample average, confirming that the statistical properties characterizing the micro-economic dynamics of firms are relevant for the dynamics of the aggregate. To better characterize the origins of aggregate fluctuations, we decompose the index in two parts, describing respectively the modal (typical) value of log growth rates and the tilt (asymmetry) of their distribution. Regression analysis shows that models based on this decomposition, despite their simplicity, possess a remarkable explanatory and predictive power with respect to the aggregate growth.
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