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Why Does the Economy Fall to Pieces after a Financial Crisis?

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  • Robert E. Hall

Abstract

The worst financial crisis in the history of the United States and many other countries started in 1929. The Great Depression followed. The second-worst struck in the fall of 2008 and the Great Recession followed. Commentators have dwelt endlessly on the causes of these and other deep financial collapses. This article pursues modern answers to a different question: why does output and employment collapse after a financial crisis and remain at low levels for several or many years after the crisis. It focuses on events in the United States since 2008. Existing macroeconomic models account successfully for the immediate effects of a financial crisis on output and employment. I will lay out a simple macro model that captures the most important features of modern models and show that realistic increases in financial frictions that occurred in the crisis of late 2008 will generate declines in real GDP and employment of the magnitude that occurred. But this model cannot explain why GDP and employment failed to recover once the financial crisis subsided—the model implies a recovery as soon as financial frictions return to normal. At the end of the article, I will mention some ideas that are in play to explain the persistent adverse effects of temporary crises, but have yet to be incorporated into the mainstream model.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert E. Hall, 2010. "Why Does the Economy Fall to Pieces after a Financial Crisis?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 3-20, Fall.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:24:y:2010:i:4:p:3-20
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.24.4.3
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    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.24.4.3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert E. Hall, 2009. "By How Much Does GDP Rise If the Government Buys More Output?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 183-249.
    2. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles L. Evans, 2005. "Nominal Rigidities and the Dynamic Effects of a Shock to Monetary Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 1-45, February.
    3. Townsend, Robert M., 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises

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