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Investment and Uncertainty: Precipitating the Great Depression in the United States

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  • DAVID GREASLEY
  • JAKOB B. MADSEN

Abstract

A severe collapse of fixed capital formation distinguished the onset of the Great Depression from other investment downturns between the world wars. Using a model estimated for the years 1890-2000, we show that the expected profitability of capital measured by Tobin's "q", and the uncertainty surrounding expected profits indicated by share price volatility, were the chief influences on investment levels, and that heightened share price volatility played the dominant role in the crucial investment collapse in 1930. Investment did not simply follow the downward course of income at the onset of the depression: rather, its slump helped to propel the wider collapse. Copyright (c) The London School of Economics and Political Science 2006.

Suggested Citation

  • David Greasley & Jakob B. Madsen, 2006. "Investment and Uncertainty: Precipitating the Great Depression in the United States," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 73(291), pages 393-412, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:73:y:2006:i:291:p:393-412
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Appendices and Index to "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing"," NBER Chapters,in: Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing, pages 465-664 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number kuzn61-1, June.
    3. Simon Kuznets & Elizabeth Jenks, 1961. "Introduction to "Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing"," NBER Chapters,in: Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing, pages 3-14 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Leo Grebler & David M. Blank & Louis Winnick, 1956. "Capital Formation in Residential Real Estate: Trends and Prospects," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number greb56-1, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Vivek Ghosal & Yang Ye, 2015. "Uncertainty and the employment dynamics of small and large businesses," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 44(3), pages 529-558, March.
    2. F. Bacchini & M. E. Bontempi & R. Golinelli & C. Jona Lasinio, 2014. "ICT and Non-ICT investments: short and long run macro dynamics," Working Papers wp956, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
    3. Alexopoulos, Michelle & Cohen, Jon, 2009. "Measuring our ignorance, one book at a time: New indicators of technological change, 1909-1949," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 450-470, May.
    4. Kyle Jurado & Sydney C. Ludvigson & Serena Ng, 2015. "Measuring Uncertainty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(3), pages 1177-1216, March.
    5. Marc Joëts & Valérie Mignon & Tovonony Razafindrabe, 2015. "Does the volatility of commodity prices reflect macroeconomic uncertainty?," EconomiX Working Papers 2015-7, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
    6. Bontempi, Maria Elena & Golinelli, Roberto & Parigi, Giuseppe, 2010. "Why demand uncertainty curbs investment: Evidence from a panel of Italian manufacturing firms," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 218-238, March.
    7. repec:kap:iaecre:v:23:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11294-017-9642-z is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Marc Joëts & Valérie Mignon & Tovonony Razafindrabe, 2017. "Does the volatility of commodity prices reflect macroeconomic uncertainty?," Post-Print halshs-01683788, HAL.
    9. repec:eee:joecas:v:13:y:2016:i:c:p:1-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:eneeco:v:68:y:2017:i:c:p:313-326 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Vivek Ghosal & Yang Ye, 2013. "Business Decision-Making under Uncertainty: Evidence from Employment and Number of Businesses," CESifo Working Paper Series 4312, CESifo Group Munich.

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