Economists win prize for agent-based forecast model

Authors say theirs is the first agent-based model to produce competitive economic forecasts

Economists Sebastian Poledna, Michael Gregor Miess and Cars Hommes have won a prize for a paper detailing what they say is the first agent-based model that can compete with more conventional economic forecast methods.

Agent-based models (ABMs) model the economy as a system of agents that interact in complex and unpredictable ways. Unlike the dominant forecast methods in use at central banks, they are run as a simulation, with results emerging from the interactions of agents. More conventional methods tend to involve solving equations or extrapolating data to reach a forecast.

The authors note ABMs have faced major hurdles in economics. They lack a “commonly accepted basis” for modelling the boundedly rational behaviour of agents. Furthermore, simulations can be designed to fit almost any outcome, so a model that fits historical patterns is not necessarily any use.

Poledna, Miess and Hommes develop a model with a large number of agents across financial firms, non-financial firms, households and the government. Each agent in the model represents a “natural or legal person in reality”. Each agent has its own balance sheet, and flows between them are based on national accounts data.

The authors test their model’s out-of-sample forecast performance against a standard dynamic stochastic general equilibrium model and a vector autoregressive model. They find the ABM produces comparable forecasts and outperforms the other models in some cases.

The paper, Economic forecasting with an agent-based model, won a competition organised by Rebuilding Macroeconomics, a four-year project to develop interdisciplinary approaches to macroeconomics.

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