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Lessons from the historical use of reserve requirements in the United States to promote bank liquidity

  • Mark A. Carlson

Efforts in the United States to promote bank liquidity through reserve requirements, a minimum ratio of liquid assets relative to liabilities, extend at least as far back as the aftermath of the Panic of 1837. These requirements were quite important during the National Banking Era. Nevertheless, suspensions of deposit convertibility and liquidity shortfalls continued to occur during banking panics. Eventually, efforts to ensure that banks remained liquid resulted in a shift away from reserve requirements in favor of a central bank able to add liquidity to the financial system. This paper reviews the issues raised in the historical debates about reserve requirements along with some empirical evidence on banks' holdings of reserves, to provide some insights and lessons that are relevant today. A key lesson is that individual bank liquidity during stress periods is inherently and intricately tied to the liquidity policies of the central bank.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2013-11.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2013-11
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  1. Odell, Kerry A. & Weidenmier, Marc D., 2004. "Real Shock, Monetary Aftershock: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the Panic of 1907," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(04), pages 1002-1027, December.
  2. Kerry Odell & Marc D. Weidenmier, . "Real Shock, Monetary Aftershock: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the Panic of 1907," Claremont Colleges Working Papers 2001-07, Claremont Colleges.
  3. Tallman, Ellis W. & Moen, Jon R., 2012. "Liquidity creation without a central bank: Clearing house loan certificates in the banking panic of 1907," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 277-291.
  4. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521770231 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Jon R. Moen & Ellis W. Tallman, 1999. "Why didn't the United States establish a central bank until after the panic of 1907?," Working Paper 99-16, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  6. Ellis W. Tallman & Jon R. Moen, 2007. "Liquidity creation without a lender of last resort: clearinghouse loan certificates in the Banking Panic of 1907," Working Paper 2006-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  7. Grossman Richard S., 1993. "The Macroeconomic Consequences of Bank Failures under the National Banking System," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 294-320, July.
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