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Avoiding Default: The Role Of Credit In The Consumption Collapse Of 1930

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  • Martha L. Olney
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    Abstract

    High consumer indebtedness threatens future consumption spending if default is expensive. Consumer spending collapsed in 1930, turning a minor recession into the Great Depression. Households were shouldering an unprecedented burden of installment debt. Down payments were large. Contracts were short. Equity in durable goods was therefore acquired quickly.Missed installment payments triggered repossession, reducing consumer wealth in 1930 because households lost all acquired equity. Cutting consumption was the only viable strategy in 1930 for avoiding default. Institutional changes lowered the cost of default by 1938. When recession began again, indebted households chose to default rather than reduce consumption. © 2000 the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

    Volume (Year): 114 (1999)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 319-335

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    Handle: RePEc:tpr:qjecon:v:114:y:1999:i:1:p:319-335

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    Web page: http://mitpress.mit.edu/journals/

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    Web: http://mitpress.mit.edu/journal-home.tcl?issn=00335533

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    Cited by:
    1. Bordo, Michael D. & Meissner, Christopher M., 2012. "Does inequality lead to a financial crisis?," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(8), pages 2147-2161.
    2. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 2013. "The Missing Transmission Mechanism in the Monetary Explanation of the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 18746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Greasley, David & Madsen, Jakob B. & Oxley, Les, 2001. "Income Uncertainty and Consumer Spending during the Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 225-251, April.
    4. Nina Dodig & Hansjorg Herr, 2014. "Previous financial crises leading to stagnation – selected case studies," Working papers wpaper24, Financialisation, Economy, Society & Sustainable Development (FESSUD) Project.
    5. Till van Treeck, 2012. "Did inequality cause the U.S. financial crisis?," IMK Working Paper 91-2012, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    6. Giesecke, Kay & Longstaff, Francis A. & Schaefer, Stephen & Strebulaev, Ilya, 2011. "Corporate bond default risk: A 150-year perspective," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 233-250.
    7. Adam Szeidl & Raj Chetty, 2005. "Consumption Commitments: Neoclassical Foundations for Habit Formation," 2005 Meeting Papers 122, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Sung Jin Kang & Yasuyuki Sawada, 2008. "Credit Crunch And Household Welfare, The Case Of The Korean Financial Crisis," The Japanese Economic Review, Japanese Economic Association, vol. 59(4), pages 438-458.
    9. Atif Mian, 2013. "Monetary Policy and Macro-Prudential Regulation: The Risk-Sharing Paradigm," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 713, Central Bank of Chile.
    10. Pierre L. Siklos, 2007. "The FedÕs Reaction to the Stock Market During the Great Depression: Fact or Artefact?," Working Paper Series 33-07, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, revised Jul 2007.
    11. Dodig, Nina & Herr, Hansjörg, 2014. "Previous financial crises leading to stagnation: Selected case studies," IPE Working Papers 33/2014, Berlin School of Economics and Law, Institute for International Political Economy (IPE).
    12. Michelle J. White, 2005. "Economic Analysis of Corporate and Personal Bankruptcy Law," NBER Working Papers 11536, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Jon D. Wisman, 2013. "Labor Busted, Rising Inequality and the Financial Crisis of 1929: An Unlearned Lesson," Working Papers 2013-07, American University, Department of Economics.
    14. Alexander J. Field, 2013. "The Interwar Housing Cycle in the Light of 2001-2011: A Comparative Historical Approach," NBER Working Papers 18796, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Michael Kumhof & Romain Ranciere & Pablo Winant, 2013. "Inequality, Leverage and Crises: The Case of Endogenous Default," IMF Working Papers 13/249, International Monetary Fund.

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