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Was the Great Depression a Low-Level Equilibrium?

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  • Dagsvik, John
  • Jovanovic, Boyan

Abstract

Was the Great Depression the outcome of a massive coordination failure? Or was it a unique equilibrium response to adverse shocks? More generally, do aggregates fluctuate partly because agents occasionally settle on inferior, low-level equilibria? These questions lie at the heart of the current disagreement over how one should view business cycles. This paper estimates an employment model with monetary and real shocks. In one region of the parameter-space the model yields uniqueness, while in the other it yields up to three equilibria. When more than one equilibrium exists, a selection rule is needed. The equilibrium selection rule that we use has a Markovian structure, but the money supply is denied a coordination role -- it can not affect the choice of the equilibrium point. The global maximum likelihood estimates lie in the uniqueness region, implying that instead of being a low-level, coordination-failure equilibrium, the Depression era was caused by movements in fundamentals only. This result held for each of the three subperiods (since 1900) for which the estimation was done, but the estimates are imprecise and the conclusions that we draw from them are tentative. The paper also computes the local maxima in the region of multiplicity, and here some of our estimates indicate that the years 1932 and 1933 would have exhibited low level equilibria had more than one equilibrium existed.
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Suggested Citation

  • Dagsvik, John & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1991. "Was the Great Depression a Low-Level Equilibrium?," Working Papers 91-07, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cvs:starer:91-07
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    File URL: http://econ.as.nyu.edu/docs/IO/9392/RR91-07.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Prescott, Edward C., 1986. "Theory ahead of business-cycle measurement," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, pages 11-44.
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    Cited by:

    1. G J Bratsiotis & W Robinson, 2002. "Economic Fundamentals and Self-Fulfilling Crises: Some Evidence from Mexico," Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research Discussion Paper Series 23, Economics, The Univeristy of Manchester.
    2. Christiano, Lawrence J. & G. Harrison, Sharon, 1999. "Chaos, sunspots and automatic stabilizers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 3-31, August.
    3. Cornell, Christopher M. & Solomon, Raphael H., 2007. "Are currency crises low-state equilibria?: An empirical, three-interest-rate model," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 489-504.
    4. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2005. "Social interactions and macroeconomics," Working papers 5, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    5. Bratsiotis, George J. & Robinson, Wayne, 2004. "Economic fundamentals and self-fulfilling crises: further evidence from Mexico," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 595-613, June.
    6. Alberto Bisin & Andrea Moro & Giorgio Topa, 2011. "The empirical content of models with multiple equilibria in economies with social interactions," Staff Reports 504, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    7. Ennis, Huberto M. & Keister, Todd, 2005. "Optimal fiscal policy under multiple equilibria," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(8), pages 1359-1377, November.
    8. Huberto M. Ennis, 2009. "Avoiding The Inflation Tax," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 50(2), pages 607-625, May.
    9. Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Are currency crises self-fulfilling?: A test," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, pages 263-286.
    10. Christopher M. Cornell & Raphael H. Solomon, 2006. "Are Currency Crises Low-State Equilibria? An Empirical, Three-Interest-Rate Model," Staff Working Papers 06-5, Bank of Canada.
    11. Cooper, Russell & Ejarque, Joao, 1995. "Financial intermediation and the Great Depression: a multiple equilibrium interpretation," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, pages 285-323.
    12. Ratti, Ronald A. & Seo, Jeonghee, 2003. "Multiple equilibria and currency crisis: evidence for Korea," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 681-696, October.
    13. Alberto Bisin & Andrea Moro & Giorgio Topa, 2006. "The Empirical Content of Models with Multiple Equilibria," 2006 Meeting Papers 660, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    14. Ozkaya, Ata, 2013. "The Domestic Debt Intolerance and Bad Equilibrium: An Empirical Default Model," GIAM Working Papers 13-1, Galatasaray University Economic Research Center.
    15. Michael Chui, 2002. "Leading indicators of balance-of-payments crises: a partial review," Bank of England working papers 171, Bank of England.
    16. Patrick Artus, 1993. "Défauts de coordination des activités. Principes et exemples," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 44(3), pages 551-568.
    17. Russell Cooper & Joao Ejarque, 1995. "Financial Intermediation and The Great Depression: A Multiple Equilibrium Interpretation," NBER Working Papers 5130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    business cycles ; policy making ; employment ; production;

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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