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Expectations and Forecasting during the Great Depression: Real-Time Evidence from the Business Press

Listed author(s):
  • Gabriel Mathy

    ()

    (American University)

  • Herman O. Stekler

    ()

    (The George Washington University)

How was the Great Depression viewed in real time? This paper yields a new perspective on this question by quantifying the qualitative statements of economic analysts in the business press and at the Federal Reserve Board. We compare the statements of economic analysts about current and future conditions to what actually happened to the American economy in the Great Depression. While Depression-era economic forecasters were able to accurately assess what was happening contemporaneously in the economy, forecasters were persistently optimistic that “the corner had been turned” and that a strong recovery was imminent even as the economy continued to decline. This optimism was based on the use of analogies and rules of thumb which were no longer applicable.

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File URL: https://www2.gwu.edu/~forcpgm/2016-011.pdf
File Function: First version, 2016
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by The George Washington University, Department of Economics, Research Program on Forecasting in its series Working Papers with number 2016-011.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2016
Handle: RePEc:gwc:wpaper:2016-011
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Web page: https://www2.gwu.edu/~forcpgm
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  1. Balke, Nathan S & Petersen, D'Ann, 2002. "How Well Does the Beige Book Reflect Economic Activity? Evaluating Qualitative Information Quantitatively," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 34(1), pages 114-136, February.
  2. Fildes, Robert & Stekler, Herman, 2002. "The state of macroeconomic forecasting," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 435-468, December.
  3. Hamilton, James D, 1992. "Was the Deflation during the Great Depression Anticipated? Evidence from the Commodity Futures Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 157-178, March.
  4. Binder, Carola Conces, 2016. "Estimation of historical inflation expectations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1-31.
  5. Fildes, Robert & Stekler, Herman, 2002. "Reply to the comments on 'The state of macroeconomic forecasting'," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 24(4), pages 503-505, December.
  6. Jalil, Andrew & Rua, Gisela, 2015. "Inflation Expectations and Recovery from the Depression in 1933: Evidence from the Narrative Record," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2015-29, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Kathryn Lundquist & Herman O Stekler, 2012. "Interpreting the Performance of Business Economists During the Great Recession," Business Economics, Palgrave Macmillan;National Association for Business Economics, vol. 47(2), pages 148-154, April.
  8. Cecchetti, Stephen G, 1992. "Prices during the Great Depression: Was the Deflation of 1930-1932 Really Unanticipated?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 141-156, March.
  9. Daniel Ellsberg, 1961. "Risk, Ambiguity, and the Savage Axioms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 643-669.
  10. Klug, Adam & Landon-Lane, John S. & White, Eugene N., 2005. "How could everyone have been so wrong? Forecasting the Great Depression with the railroads," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 27-55, January.
  11. Martha A. Starr, 2014. "Qualitative And Mixed-Methods Research In Economics: Surprising Growth, Promising Future," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 28(2), pages 238-264, April.
  12. Robert Goldfarb & H. O. Stekler & Joel David, 2005. "Methodological issues in forecasting: Insights from the egregious business forecast errors of late 1930," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 517-542.
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