US Historical News-Based Policy Index

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Two overlapping sets of newspapers are used in this (still-preliminary) series. The first spans 1900 - 1985 and is comprised of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, and the Boston Globe. From 1985 until 2012, we use the previously mentioned newspapers along with USA Today, the Miami Herald, the Dallas Morning Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

To construct the index, we perform month-by-month searches of each paper, starting in January of 1900, for terms related to economic and policy uncertainty. In particular, we search for articles containing the term 'uncertainty' or 'uncertain', the terms 'economic', 'economy', 'business', 'commerce', 'industry', and 'industrial' as well as one or more of the following terms: 'congress', 'legislation', 'white house', 'regulation', 'federal reserve', 'deficit', 'tariff', or 'war'. In other words, to meet our criteria for inclusion the article must include terms in all three categories pertaining to uncertainty, the economy and policy.

To deal with changing volumes of news articles for a given paper over time, we divide the raw counts of policy uncertainty articles by the total number of news articles containing terms regarding the economy or business in the paper. We then normalize each paper's series to unit standard deviation prior to December 2009 and sum each paper's series.

Due to changing language usage and newspaper editorial standards over this time period, we are continuing to experiment with search term choice. We are performing both human and computer audits of historical news articles across a number of newspapers in this sample in order to best characterize changing levels of news coverage of economic policy uncertainty.