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New Deal policies and the persistence of the Great Depression: a general equilibrium analysis


  • Harold L. Cole
  • Lee E. Ohanian


There are two striking aspects of the recovery from the Great Depression in the United States: the recovery was very weak and real wages in several sectors rose significantly above trend. These data contrast sharply with neoclassical theory, which predicts a strong recovery with low real wages. We evaluate the contribution of New Deal cartelization policies designed to limit competition and increase labor bargaining power to the persistence of the Depression. We develop a model of the bargaining process between labor and firms that occurred with these policies, and embed that model within a multi-sector dynamic general equilibrium model. We find that New Deal cartelization policies are an important factor in accounting for the post-1933 Depression. We also find that the key depressing element of New Deal policies was not collusion per se, but rather the link between paying high wages and collusion.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmwp:597

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2000. "Sticky Price Models of the Business Cycle: Can the Contract Multiplier Solve the Persistence Problem?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1151-1180, September.
    2. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Krusell, Per, 2000. "The role of investment-specific technological change in the business cycle," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 91-115, January.
    3. Chari, V V & Christiano, Lawrence J & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1994. "Optimal Fiscal Policy in a Business Cycle Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 617-652, August.
    4. Milton Friedman & Anna J. Schwartz, 1963. "A Monetary History of the United States, 1867–1960," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number frie63-1, January.
    5. 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.
    6. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Rapping, Leonard A, 1972. "Unemployment in the Great Depression: Is There a Full Explanation?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(1), pages 186-191, Jan.-Feb..
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