IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/cpr/ceprdp/8034.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The End of the Great Depression 1939-41: Policy Contributions and Fiscal Multipliers

Author

Listed:
  • Gordon, Robert J
  • Krenn, Robert

Abstract

This paper is about the size of fiscal multipliers and the sources of recovery from the Great Depression. Its contributions begin with a new quarterly data set for the interwar period that allows development of a VAR model of the U. S. economy over the period 1920-41. The quarterly data facilitate an estimate of the growth rate and level of potential real GDP, and this in turn allows us to date the end of the Great Depression as the period between 1939:Q1, when the output gap was 21.9 percent, and 1941:Q4, when the output gap was -1.3 percent. By using VAR dynamic forecasting and examining the effect of innovations to each variable individually, this paper’s baseline result is that 89.1 percent of the 1939:Q1-1941:Q4 recovery can be attributed to fiscal policy innovations, 34.1 percent to monetary policy innovations and the remaining -23.2 percent to the combined effect of the basic VAR dynamic forecast and innovations in non-government components of GDP (N). The paper attributes the negative innovations of N in the second half of 1941 to capacity constraints. Traditional Keynesian multipliers assume that there are no capacity constraints to impede a fiscal-driven expansion in aggregate demand. On the contrary, we find ample evidence of capacity constraints in 1941, particularly in the second half of that year. As a result our preferred government spending multiplier (which starts in 1940:Q2 and subtracts out the forecasts of the no-shock basic VAR model) is 1.80 when the time period ends in 1941:Q2 but only 0.88 when the time period ends in supply-constrained 1941:Q4. Only the 1.80 multiplier is relevant to situations like 2009-10 when capacity constraints are absent across the economy. Two sets of new insights emerge from a review of contemporary print media. We document that the American economy went to war starting in June 1940, fully 18 months before Pearl Harbor, in contrast to the widespread assumption in the previous literature that Pearl Harbor marked the beginning of WWII for the United States. We also detail the bifurcated nature of the 1941 economy, with excess capacity in its labor market but capacity constraints in many of the key manufacturing industries. By July 1941, the American economy was in a state of perceived national emergency. We not only show in two alternative sets of quarterly data that private consumption and investment actually declined in late 1941, but we also explain why. Among these examples, shortages of steel prevented auto companies from satisfying demand, and shortages of aluminum needed for aircraft production suppressed production even of the most humble of household objects, like tea kettles and zippers.

Suggested Citation

  • Gordon, Robert J & Krenn, Robert, 2010. "The End of the Great Depression 1939-41: Policy Contributions and Fiscal Multipliers," CEPR Discussion Papers 8034, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8034
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8034
    Download Restriction: CEPR Discussion Papers are free to download for our researchers, subscribers and members. If you fall into one of these categories but have trouble downloading our papers, please contact us at subscribers@cepr.org

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Bordo & Joseph G. Haubrich, 2012. "Deep Recessions, Fast Recoveries, and Financial Crises: Evidence from the American Record," NBER Working Papers 18194, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Olivier Blanchard & Christopher J. Erceg & Jesper Lindé, 2017. "Jump-Starting the Euro-Area Recovery: Would a Rise in Core Fiscal Spending Help the Periphery?," NBER Macroeconomics Annual, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(1), pages 103-182.
    3. Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke, 2015. "Economic Impossibilities For Our Granchildren?," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _139, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
    4. Jean-Paul L'Huillier & Dan Cao, 2012. "Technological Revolutions and Debt Hangovers: Is There a Causal Link?," 2012 Meeting Papers 899, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Jonathan A. Parker, 2011. "On Measuring the Effects of Fiscal Policy in Recessions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(3), pages 703-718, September.
    6. repec:eee:macchp:v2-2417 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Marco Bernardini & Gert Peersman, 2015. "Private Debt Overhang And The Government Spending Multiplier: Evidence For The United States," Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium 15/901, Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
    8. Ji, Yangyang & Xiao, Wei, 2016. "Government spending multipliers and the zero lower bound," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 87-100.
    9. Juan A. Correa & Christian Ferrada & Pablo Gutiérrez & Francisco Parro, 2014. "Effects of fiscal policy on private consumption: evidence from structural-balance fiscal rule deviations," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(11), pages 776-781, July.
    10. Gabriel P. Mathy, 2014. "Uncertainty Shocks and Equity Return Jumps and Volatility During the Great Depression," Working Papers 2014-02, American University, Department of Economics.
    11. Orsola Costantini, 2015. "The Cyclically Adjusted Budget: History and Exegesis of a Fateful Estimate," Working Papers Series 24, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    12. Sébastien Charles & Thomas Dallery & Jonathan Marie, 2015. "Why the Keynesian Multiplier Increases During Hard Times: A Theoretical Explanation Based on Rentiers' Saving Behaviour," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(3), pages 451-473, July.
    13. Sebastian Gechert & Ansgar Rannenberg, 2014. "Are Fiscal Multipliers Regime-Dependent? A Meta Regression Analysis," IMK Working Paper 139-2014, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    14. repec:spr:cliomt:v:12:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11698-016-0158-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. repec:eee:jpolmo:v:39:y:2017:i:4:p:650-654 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    ; monetary policy in the Great Depression; capacity constraints; fiscal multipliers; Great Depression; interwar period; rearmament; World War II;

    JEL classification:

    • E2 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8034. 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: (). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.