IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Real Origins of the Great Depression: Monopoly Power, Unions and the American Business Cycle in the 1920s

  • Monique Ebell
  • Albrecht Ritschl

We attempt to explain the severe 1920-21 recession, the roaring 1920s boom, and the slide into the Great Depression after 1929 in a unified framework. The model combines monopolistic product market competition with search frictions in the labor market, allowing for both individual and collective wage bargaining. We attribute the extraordinary macroeconomic and financial volatility of this period to two factors: Shifts in the wage bargaining regime and in the degree of monopoly power in the economy. A shift from individual to collective bargaining presents as a recession, involving declines in output and asset values, and increases in unemployment and real wages. The pro-union provisions of the Clayton Act of 1914 facilitated the rise of collective bargaining after World War I, leading to the asset price crash and recession of 1920-21. A series of tough anti-union Supreme Court decisions in late 1921 induced a shift back to individual bargaining, leading the economy out of the recession. This, coupled with the lax anti-trust enforcement of the Coolidge and Hoover administrations enabled a major rise in corporate profits and stock market valuations throughout the 1920s. Landmark pro-union court decisions in the late 1920s, as well as political pressure on firms to adopt the welfare capitalism model of high wages, led to collapsing profit expectations, contributing substantially to the stock market crash. We model the onset of the Great Depression as an equilibrium switch from individual wage bargaining to (actual or mimicked) collective wage bargaining. The general equilibrium effects of this regime change are consistent with large decreases in output, employment, and stock prices and moderate increases in real wages.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/dp0876.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp0876.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0876
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. V V Chari & Patrick J Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Business Cycle Accounting," Levine's Bibliography 506439000000000421, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Jonas D.M. Fisher & Andreas Hornstein, 2001. "The role of real wages, productivity and fiscal policy in Germany's Great Depression 1928-1937," Working Paper Series WP-01-07, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  3. Robert E. Hall, 1986. "The Relation Between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," NBER Working Papers 1785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Daniel M.G. Raff & Lawrence H. Summers, 1986. "Did Henry Ford Pay Efficiency Wages?," NBER Working Papers 2101, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christiano, Lawrence & Motto, Roberto & Rostagno, Massimo, 2004. "The Great Depression and the Friedman-Schwartz hypothesis," Working Paper Series 0326, European Central Bank.
  6. Ebell, Monique & Haefke, Christian, 2006. "Product Market Regulation and Endogenous Union Formation," IZA Discussion Papers 2222, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Romer, Christina D, 1990. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 597-624, August.
  8. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in Propagation of the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 257-76, June.
  9. Paul Beaudry & Franck Portier, 2002. "Data Appendix to The French Depression in the 1930s," Technical Appendices beaudry02, Review of Economic Dynamics.
  10. 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.
  11. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "The great U.K. depression: a puzzle and possible resolution," Staff Report 295, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  12. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2006. "Appendices: Business cycle accounting," Staff Report 362, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  13. Rappoport, Peter & White, Eugene N., 1993. "Was There a Bubble in the 1929 Stock Market?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 549-574, September.
  14. Bittlingmayer, George, 1992. " Stock Returns, Real Activity, and the Trust Question," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 47(5), pages 1701-30, December.
  15. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian & Ron Leung, 2005. "Deflation and the international Great Depression: a productivity puzzle," Staff Report 356, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  16. Roeger, Werner, 1995. "Can Imperfect Competition Explain the Difference between Primal and Dual Productivity Measures? Estimates for U.S. Manufacturing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(2), pages 316-30, April.
  17. Ben S. Bernanke, 1994. "The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression: A Comparative Approach," NBER Working Papers 4814, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Gerard A. Pfann, 1996. "Adjustment Costs in Factor Demand," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(3), pages 1264-1292, September.
  19. Eugene White & Frederic Mishkin, 2002. "U.S.Stock Market Crashes and Their Aftermath: Implications for Monetary Policy," Departmental Working Papers 200208, Rutgers University, Department of Economics.
  20. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "The 1929 stock market: Irving Fisher was right," Staff Report 294, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  21. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  22. Keller, Robert R., 1973. "Factor Income Distribution in the United States During the 1920's: A Reexamination of Fact and Theory," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 33(01), pages 252-273, March.
  23. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, March.
  24. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Accounting for the Great Depression," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr, pages 2-8.
  25. Robert Shimer, 2005. "The Cyclical Behavior of Equilibrium Unemployment and Vacancies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 25-49, March.
  26. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2002. "Accounting for the Great Depression (technical appendix)," Working Papers 619, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  27. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "Data Appendix to The Great U.K. Depression: A Puzzle and Possible Resolution," Technical Appendices cole02, Review of Economic Dynamics.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp0876. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.