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Payment Uncertainty, the division of labor, and productivity declines in great depressions

  • Keiichiro Kobayashi

This paper proposes a simple model that formalizes a variant of Ohanian's (2001) conjecture explaining the productivity declines observed in the Great Depression. If a large payment shock like an asset-price collapse renders many firms insolvent, other economic agents become exposed to a higher risk of not being paid (payment uncertainty). The payment uncertainty causes endogenous disruptions of the division of labor among firms, thereby lowering macroeconomic productivity. The prediction of the model is that productivity correlates negatively with bankruptcies and positively with the cost share of intermediate inputs, which is consistent with the data from depression episodes. The model implies that the so-called failure of macroeconomic policy in the United States during the early 1930s, when a rash of bankruptcies occurred, could actually have been welfare enhancing, since the quick exit of insolvent agents can resolve payment uncertainty quickly.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI) in its series Discussion papers with number 04037.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Dec 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:eti:dpaper:04037
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  1. Timothy J. Kehoe & Edward C. Prescott (), 2007. "Great depressions of the twentieth century," Monograph, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, number 2007gdott.
  2. Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr.
  3. Nobuhiro Kiyotaki & John Moore, 2004. "Credit Chains," ESE Discussion Papers 118, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  4. Susanto Basu, 1994. "Intermediate Goods and Business Cycles: Implications for Productivity and Welfare," NBER Working Papers 4817, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Blanchard, Olivier & Kremer, Michael R., 1997. "Disorganization," Scholarly Articles 3659691, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Dale W. Jorgenson & Kazuyuki Motohashi, 2003. "Economic Growth of Japan and the United States in the Information Age," Discussion papers 03015, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
  7. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "New Deal policies and the persistence of the Great Depression: a general equilibrium analysis," Working Papers 597, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1994. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," NBER Chapters, in: Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis with Special Reference to Education (3rd Edition), pages 299-322 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Kobayashi, Keiichiro & Inaba, Masaru, 2006. "Business cycle accounting for the Japanese economy," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 418-440, December.
  10. 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.
  11. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 1999. "The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 2-24.
  12. Lamont, Owen, 1995. "Corporate-Debt Overhang and Macroeconomic Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1106-17, December.
  13. Kobayashi, Keiichiro & Inaba, Masaru, 2005. "Debt disorganization in Japan," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 151-169, April.
  14. 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.
  15. Kim, Sunwoong, 1989. "Labor Specialization and the Extent of the Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 692-705, June.
  16. Kobayashi, Keiichiro, 2007. "Payment Uncertainty And The Productivity Slowdown," Macroeconomic Dynamics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 231-248, April.
  17. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "The U.S. and U.K. Great Depressions Through the Lens of Neoclassical Growth Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 28-32, May.
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