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The great U.K. depression: a puzzle and possible resolution

  • Harold L. Cole
  • Lee E. Ohanian

Between 1913 and 1929, real GDP per person in the UK fell 1 percent, while this same measure of economic activity rose about 25 percent in the rest of the world. Why was Britain so depressed in a decade of strong economic activity around the world? This paper argues that the standard explanations of contractionary monetary shocks and an overvalued nominal exchange rate are not the prime suspects for killing the British economy. Rather, we argue that large, negative sectoral shocks, coupled with generous unemployment benefits and housing subsidies, are the primary causes of this long and deep depression.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its series Staff Report with number 295.

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Date of creation: 2001
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:295
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  1. Hansen, Gary D., 1985. "Indivisible labor and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 309-327, November.
  2. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2000. "Re-examining the contributions of money and banking shocks to the U.S. Great Depression," Staff Report 270, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  3. Ljungqvist, Lars & Sargent, Thomas J., 1997. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," Working Paper Series 481, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. Cogan, John F, 1981. "Fixed Costs and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 945-63, June.
  6. Benjamin, Daniel K & Kochin, Levis A, 1979. "Searching for an Explanation of Unemployment in Interwar Britain," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(3), pages 441-78, June.
  7. 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.
  8. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
  9. 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.
  10. Louis S. Jacobson & Robert J. LaLonde & Daniel Sullivan, 1992. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 92-11, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  11. Eichengreen, Barry, 1987. "Unemployment in Interwar Britain: Dole or Doldrums?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(4), pages 597-623, December.
  12. Metcalf, David & Nickell, Stephen J & Floros, Nicos, 1982. "Still Searching for an Explanation of Unemployment in Interwar Britain," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(2), pages 386-99, April.
  13. Maki, Dennis R & Spindler, Zane A, 1975. "The Effect of Unemployment Compensation on the Rate of Unemployment in Great Britain," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(3), pages 440-54, November.
  14. 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.
  15. Benjamin, Daniel K & Kochin, Levis A, 1982. "Unemployment and Unemployment Benefits in Twentieth-Century Britain: A Reply to Our Critics [Searching for an Explanation of Unemployment in Interwar Britain]," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(2), pages 410-36, April.
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