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How Was the Quantitative Easing Program of the 1930s Unwound?

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  • Gabriel P. Mathy
  • Matthew Jaremski

Abstract

Outside of the recent past, excess reserves have only concerned policymakers in one other period: the Great Depression of the 1930s. This historical episode thus provides the only guidance about the Fed's current predicament of how to unwind from the extensive Quantitative Easing program. Excess reserves in the 1930s were never actually unwound through a reduction in the monetary base. Nominal economic growth swelled required reserves while an exogenous reduction in monetary gold inflows due to war embargoes in Europe allowed banks to naturally reduce their excess reserves. Excess reserves fell rapidly in 1941 and would have unwound fully even without the entry of the United States into World War II. As such, policy tightening was at no point necessary and likely was even responsible for the 1937-1938 recession.

Suggested Citation

  • Gabriel P. Mathy & Matthew Jaremski, 2016. "How Was the Quantitative Easing Program of the 1930s Unwound?," Working Papers 2016-01, American University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:amu:wpaper:2016-01
    DOI: 10.17606/re90-fw19
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    File URL: https://doi.org/10.17606/re90-fw19
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    Cited by:

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    2. Gabriel Mathy & Christian Roatta, 2018. "Forecasting the 1937-1938 Recession: Quantifying Contemporary Newspaper Forecasts," Working Papers 2018-004, The George Washington University, Department of Economics, H. O. Stekler Research Program on Forecasting.

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    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E58 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Central Banks and Their Policies
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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