This paper examines the role of uncertainty shocks in a one-sector, representative-agent dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model. When prices are flexible, uncertainty shocks are not capable of producing business cycle comovements among key macro variables. With countercyclical markups through sticky prices, however, uncertainty shocks can generate fluctuations that are consistent with business cycles. Monetary policy usually plays a key role in offsetting the negative impact of uncertainty shocks. If the central bank is constrained by the zero lower bound, then monetary policy can no longer perform its usual stabilizing function and higher uncertainty has even more negative effects on the economy. Calibrating the size of uncertainty shocks using fluctuations in the VIX, the authors find that increased uncertainty about the future may indeed have played a significant role in worsening the Great Recession, which is consistent with statements by policymakers, economists, and the financial press.
JEL Classifications: E32, E52
Keywords: uncertainty shocks, monetary policy, sticky-price models