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Re-Examining the Contributions of Money and Banking Shocks to the U.S. Great Depression

In: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15

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  • Harold L. Cole
  • Lee E. Ohanian

Abstract

This paper quantitatively evaluates the hypothesis that deflation can account for much of the Great Depression (1929–33). We examine two popular explanations of the Depression: (1) The “high wage” story, according to which deflation, combined with imperfectly flexible wages, raised real wages and reduced employment and output. (2) The “bank failure” story, according to which deflationary money shocks contributed to bank failures and to a reduction in the efficiency of financial intermediation, which in turn reduced lending and output. We evaluate these stories using general equilibrium business cycle models, and find that wage shocks and banking shocks account for a small fraction of the Great Depression. We also find that some other predictions of the theories are at variance with the data.
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  • Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Re-Examining the Contributions of Money and Banking Shocks to the U.S. Great Depression," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 183-260 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11057
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    1. Robert P. Lamont, 1930. "The White House Conferences," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3, pages 269-269.
    2. Romer, Christina D., 1988. "World War I and the postwar depression A reinterpretation based on alternative estimates of GNP," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 91-115, July.
    3. Bernanke, Ben S. & Gertler, Mark & Gilchrist, Simon, 1999. "The financial accelerator in a quantitative business cycle framework," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 21, pages 1341-1393 Elsevier.
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    12. 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.
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