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Deflation and the international Great Depression: a productivity puzzle

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  • Harold L. Cole
  • Lee E. Ohanian
  • Ron Leung

Abstract

This paper presents a dynamic, stochastic general equilibrium study of the causes of the international Great Depression. We use a fully articulated model to assess the relative contributions of deflation/monetary shocks, which are the most commonly cited shocks for the Depression, and productivity shocks. We find that productivity is the dominant shock, accounting for about 2/3 of the Depression, with the monetary shock accounting for about 1/3. The main reason deflation doesn't account for more of the Depression is because there is no systematic relationship between deflation and output during this period. Our finding that a persistent productivity shock is the key factor stands in contrast to the conventional view that a continuing sequence of unexpected deflation shocks was the major cause of the Depression. We also explore what factors might be causing the productivity shocks. We find some evidence that they are largely related to industrial activity, rather than agricultural activity, and that they are correlated with real exchange rates and non-deflationary shocks to the financial sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Harold L. Cole & Lee E. Ohanian & Ron Leung, 2005. "Deflation and the international Great Depression: a productivity puzzle," Staff Report 356, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmsr:356
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    10. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles L. Evans, 2005. "Nominal Rigidities and the Dynamic Effects of a Shock to Monetary Policy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 1-45, February.
    11. Ben Bernanke & Harold James, 1990. "The Gold Standard, Deflation, and Financial Crisis in the Great Depression: An International Comparison," NBER Working Papers 3488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
    13. Lee E. Ohanian, 2002. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Spr.
    14. Field, Alexander J., 1984. "A New Interpretation of the Onset of the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(02), pages 489-498, June.
    15. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1994. "On the contribution of technology shocks to business cycles," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 22-34.
    16. Choudhri, Ehsan U & Kochin, Levis A, 1980. "The Exchange Rate and the International Transmission of Business Cycle Disturbances: Some Evidence from the Great Depression," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 12(4), pages 565-574, November.
    17. Pedro Amaral & James C. MacGee, 2002. "The Great Depression in Canada and the United States: A Neoclassical Perspective," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 45-72, January.
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    1. 2008=1929?
      by Economic Logician in Economic Logic on 2008-03-24 16:15:00

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    Cited by:

    1. AKIYOSHI Fumio & KOBAYASHI Keiichiro, 2007. "Bank Distress and Productivity of Borrowing Firms: Evidence from Japan," Discussion papers 07014, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    2. Price Fishback, 2010. "US monetary and fiscal policy in the 1930s," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 385-413, Autumn.
    3. Gregor W. Smith, 2006. "The spectre of deflation: a review of empirical evidence," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1041-1072, November.
    4. Albrecht Ritschl & Monique Ebell, 2007. "Real Origins of the Great Depression: Monopoly Power, Unions and the American Business Cycle in the 1920s," 2007 Meeting Papers 712, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    5. Keiichiro Kobayashi & Noriyuki Yanagawa, 2007. "Bank Distress and the Borrowers' Productivity," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-521, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
    6. Heer, Burkhard & Schubert, Stefan Franz, 2012. "Unemployment and debt dynamics in a highly indebted small open economy," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1392-1413.
    7. Klein, Alexander & Otsuy, Keisuke, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 147, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    8. Pedro S. Amaral & James C. MacGee, 2012. "Re-Examining the Role of Sticky Wages in the U.S. Great Contraction: A Multi-sector Approach," University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute Working Papers 20125, University of Western Ontario, Economic Policy Research Institute.
    9. Alex Klein & Keisuke Otsu, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," Studies in Economics 1317, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    10. Christian Alexander Belabed, 2015. "Income Distribution and the Great Depression," IMK Working Paper 153-2015, IMK at the Hans Boeckler Foundation, Macroeconomic Policy Institute.
    11. Fabien Tripier, 2009. "Elasticity of factor substitution and the rise in labor's share of income during the Great Depression," Working Papers hal-00419343, HAL.
    12. Ahmadi, Pooyan Amir & Ritschl, Albrecht, 2009. "Depression Econometrics: A FAVAR Model of Monetary Policy During the Great Depression," CEPR Discussion Papers 7546, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    13. Schubert, Stefan F., 2011. "The effects of total factor productivity and export shocks on a small open economy with unemployment," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 35(9), pages 1514-1530, September.
    14. Luca Pensieroso, 2011. "The Great Depression in Belgium from a Neoclassical Perspective," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 14(2), pages 389-402, Arpil.
    15. Carapella, Francesca, 2015. "Banking panics and deflation in dynamic general equilibrium," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-18, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    16. KOBAYASHI Keiichiro & YANAGAWA Noriyuki, 2008. "Banking Crisis and Borrower Productivity," Discussion papers 08003, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    17. Ebell, Monique & Ritschl, Albrecht, 2007. "Real Origins of the Great Depression: Monopolistic Competition, Union Power, and the American Business Cycle in the 1920s," CEPR Discussion Papers 6146, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    18. repec:eee:moneco:v:92:y:2017:i:c:p:112-129 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Satyajit Chatterjee & Dean Corbae, 2006. "Monetary and financial forces in the Great Depression," Working Papers 06-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Depressions ; Deflation (Finance) ; Production (Economic theory);

    JEL classification:

    • E0 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General
    • N1 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations

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