Asymmetric conjugate priors for large Bayesian VARs

Author name: 
Chan JCC

Large Bayesian VARs are now widely used in empirical macroeconomics. One popular shrinkage prior in this setting is the natural conjugate prior as it facilitates posterior simulation and leads to a range of useful analytical results. This is, however, at the expense of modelling exibility, as it rules out cross-variable shrinkage – i.e. shrinking coefficients on lags of other variables more aggressively than those on own lags. We develop a prior that has the best of both worlds: it can accommodate cross-variable shrinkage, while maintaining many useful analytical results, such as a closed-form expression of the marginal likelihood. This new prior also leads to fast posterior simulation - for a BVAR with 100 variables and 4 lags, obtaining 10,000 posterior draws takes less than half a minute on a standard desktop. In a forecasting exercise, we show that a data-driven asymmetric prior outperforms two useful benchmarks: a data-driven symmetric prior and a subjective asymmetric prior.

Publication file: 

Updated:  5 July 2020/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAMA admin