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Accounting for the Great Depression

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  • Patrick J. Kehoe
  • Ellen R. McGrattan

Abstract

Economists have offered many theories for the U.S. Great Depression, but no consensus has formed on the main forces behind it. Here we describe and demonstrate a simple methodology for determining which theories are the most promising. We show that a large class of models, including models with various frictions, are equivalent to a prototype growth model with time-varying efficiency, labor, and investment wedges that, at least on face value, look like time-varying productivity, labor taxes, and investment taxes. We use U.S. data to measure these wedges, feed them back into the prototype growth model, and assess the fraction of the fluctuations in 1929?39 that they account for. We find that the efficiency and labor wedges account for essentially all of the decline and subsequent recovery. Investment wedges play, at best, a minor role. This article originally appeared in the American Economic Review. (c) American Economic Association. ; RELATED PAPER: Staff Report 328 Business Cycle Accounting
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Suggested Citation

  • Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2002. "Accounting for the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 22-27, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:92:y:2002:i:2:p:22-27
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282802320188934
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Carlstrom, Charles T & Fuerst, Timothy S, 1997. "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations: A Computable General Equilibrium Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 893-910, December.
    2. Christopher J. Erceg & Michael D. Bordo & Charles L. Evans, 2000. "Money, Sticky Wages, and the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1447-1463, December.
    3. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2007. "Business Cycle Accounting," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(3), pages 781-836, May.
    4. Casey B. Mulligan, 2002. "A Dual Method of Empirically Evaluating Dynamic Competitive Equilibrium Models with Market Distortions, Applied to the Great Depression & World War II," NBER Working Papers 8775, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2004. "New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 779-816, August.
    6. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark, 1989. "Agency Costs, Net Worth, and Business Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(1), pages 14-31, March.
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