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Did Monetary Forces Cause the Great Depression? A Bayesian VAR Analysis for the U.S. Economy

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  • Albrecht Ritschl
  • Ulrich Woitek

Abstract

This paper recasts Temin's (1976) question of whether monetary forces caused the Great Depression in a modern time series framework. We adopt a Bayesian estimation and forecasting algorithm to evaluate the e ects of monetary policy against nonmonetary alternatives, allowing for time-varying parameters and coeffcient updating. We nd that the predictive power of monetary policy is very small for the early phase of the depression and breaks down almost entirely after 1931. During the propagation phase of 1930-31, monetary policy is able to forecast correctly at short time horizons put in- variably predicts recovery at longer horizons. Con rming Temin (1976), we nd that nonmonetary leading indicators, particularly on residential construc- tion and equipment investment, have impressive predictive power. Already in September 1929, they forecast about two thirds of downturn correctly. Our time varying framework also permits us to examine the stability of the dy- namic parameter structure of our estimates. We nd that the monetary im- pulse responses exhibit remarkable structural instability and react clearly to changes in the monetary regime that occurred during the depression. We nd this phenomenon to be discomforting in the light of the Lucas (1976) critique, as it suggests that the money/income relationship may itself have been en- dogenous to policy and was not in the set of deep parameters of the U.S. economy. Given the instability and poor predictive power of monetary instru- ments and the strong showing of leading indicators on real activity, we remain skeptical with regard to a monetary interpretation of the Great Depression in the U.S.

Suggested Citation

  • Albrecht Ritschl & Ulrich Woitek, 2000. "Did Monetary Forces Cause the Great Depression? A Bayesian VAR Analysis for the U.S. Economy," Working Papers 2000_07, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow.
  • Handle: RePEc:gla:glaewp:2000_07
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    Cited by:

    1. Aleksander Berentsen & Guillaume Rocheteau, 2003. "Money and the Gains from Trade," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(1), pages 263-297, February.
    2. Ritschl, Albrecht & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2003. "Endogeneity of Currency Areas and Trade Blocs: Evidence from the Inter-war Period," CEPR Discussion Papers 4112, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Alex Klein & Keisuke Otsu, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," Studies in Economics 1317, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    4. Tevdovski, Dragan & Petrevski, Goran & Bogoev, Jane, 2016. "The effects of macroeconomic policies under fixed exchange rates: A Bayesian VAR analysis," MPRA Paper 73461, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 21 Jun 2016.
    5. Aleksander Berentsen & Guillaume Rocheteau, 2004. "Money and Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(4), pages 915-944.
    6. Berentsen, Aleksander & Rocheteau, Guillaume, 2002. "On the efficiency of monetary exchange: how divisibility of money matters," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(8), pages 1621-1649, November.
    7. Reto Foellmi & Urs Meister, 2005. "Product-Market Competition in the Water Industry: Voluntary Non-discriminatory Pricing," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 5(2), pages 115-135, June.
    8. Petrevski, Goran & Exterkate, Peter & Tevdovski, Dragan & Bogoev, Jane, 2015. "The transmission of foreign shocks to South Eastern European economies: A Bayesian VAR approach," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 632-643.
    9. Schenk-Hoppe, Klaus Reiner & Schmalfu[ss], Bjorn, 2001. "Random fixed points in a stochastic Solow growth model," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 19-30, September.
    10. Barry Eichengreen, 2002. "Still Fettered After All These Years," NBER Working Papers 9276, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • E37 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • E47 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications
    • C53 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Forecasting and Prediction Models; Simulation Methods

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