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Vector Autoregression

· 3 min read

Vector Autoregression (VAR) is a statistical model used extensively in econometrics, known for its ability to capture the linear interdependencies among multiple time series. VAR models are particularly favored in economic forecasting where the behavior of several closely related economic variables needs to be forecast simultaneously.

The Basics of VAR

At its core, a VAR model treats every variable in the system as a function of past values of itself and past values of all other variables in the system. This approach allows researchers and analysts to model the dynamic behavior of economic systems where variables are interdependent.

How VAR Works

A VAR model typically includes as variables the observations of different entities over the same time periods. For example, if we are interested in the interplay between GDP growth, interest rates, and unemployment rates, a VAR model would allow us to see how past values of GDP growth and interest rates affect current and future unemployment rates, and vice versa.

The general form of a VAR model with p lags (VAR(p)) can be written as:

Yt=c+Φ1Yt1+Φ2Yt2++ΦpYtp+ϵtY*t = c + \Phi_1 Y*{t-1} + \Phi*2 Y*{t-2} + \ldots + \Phi*p Y*{t-p} + \epsilon_t


  • YtY_t is a vector of the endogenous variables at time t,
  • cc is a constant vector (intercept),
  • Φ1,Φ2,,Φp\Phi_1, \Phi_2, \ldots, \Phi_p are matrices of coefficients which capture the influence of lagged (past) values of the endogenous variables on the current value,
  • ϵt\epsilon_t is a vector of error terms, which are assumed to be white noise.

Estimating and Using VAR Models

Estimation of a VAR model involves calculating the matrices of coefficients (Φ\Phi) that best fit the data available. This process usually employs methods like Ordinary Least Squares (OLS). After estimation, the model can be used for several purposes:

  • Forecasting: VAR models can predict future values of the included variables based on their historical interactions.
  • Impulse Response Analysis: This examines how a 'shock' or unexpected change in one variable affects others over time.
  • Variance Decomposition: This helps in understanding the proportion of the movements in dependent variables that are due to their "own" shocks versus shocks to other variables.

Challenges and Considerations

While VAR models are versatile and powerful, they come with their own set of challenges:

  • Parameterization: With many variables and lags, the number of parameters to estimate can become very large, leading to overfitting.
  • Stationarity Requirement: VAR models require the data to be stationary. This often necessitates transforming the data by differencing or detrending prior to model fitting.
  • Interpretation: The relationships in a VAR model are purely statistical and do not imply causation.


VAR models are indispensable in the fields of economics and finance for their robustness in handling multivariate time series data. Whether it's for understanding economic dynamics or forecasting critical economic indicators, VAR models provide a crucial analytical tool. However, it's essential to be cautious about their limitations and ensure that their application is backed by a sound understanding of the data and the underlying economic theories.

Vector Autoregression represents a key method in the econometrician's toolkit, enabling detailed analysis and prediction of economic phenomena in a way that few other models can.