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

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  • Harold L. Cole
  • Lee E. Ohanian

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:295
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hansen, Gary D., 1985. "Indivisible labor and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 309-327, November.
    2. Jacobson, Louis S & LaLonde, Robert J & Sullivan, Daniel G, 1993. "Earnings Losses of Displaced Workers," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(4), pages 685-709, September.
    3. Lars Ljungqvist & Thomas J. Sargent, 1998. "The European Unemployment Dilemma," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 106(3), pages 514-550, June.
    4. Rogerson, Richard, 1988. "Indivisible labor, lotteries and equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 3-16, January.
    5. Eichengreen, Barry, 1987. "Unemployment in Interwar Britain: Dole or Doldrums?," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(4), pages 597-623, December.
    6. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "The Great U.K. Depression: A Puzzle and Possible Resolution," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 19-44, January.
    7. Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Re-Examining the Contributions of Money and Banking Shocks to the U.S. Great Depression," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2000, Volume 15, pages 183-260 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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 410-436, April.
    9. 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.
    10. Cogan, John F, 1981. "Fixed Costs and Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 945-963, June.
    11. 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 440-454, November.
    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 386-399, April.
    13. 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 441-478, June.
    14. 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.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Depressions ; Unemployment;

    JEL classification:

    • E30 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity

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