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Deflation and the International Great Depression: A Productivity Puzzle

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

This paper develops the first dynamic, stochastic, general equilibrium analysis of the International Great Depression. We construct a new version of Lucas?s (1972) monetary misperceptions model, with a real shock (productivity) and a nominal shock (money supply). We use the model with a newly assembled panel data set from 17 countries between 1929-33 to quantify the fraction of output change and price change that is accounted for by these two shocks. Data limitations require us to develop a new procedure for identifying the two shocks. The identified productivity shock has a large country-specific component, and is highly correlated with actual productivity. The identified monetary shock has a large common component, and is highly correlated with money supply changes. We find that the model accounts for most of the variation in macroeconomic activity in the panel of countries. About 2/3 of output change is accounted for by the real (productivity) shock, and virtually all of the change in nominal prices is accounted for by the nominal (money supply) shock. The only variable we find that is highly correlated with the productivity shock is stock prices. We conclude that financial friction models are potentially the most promising class of models for understanding the Solow Residual during this period, and thus the Great Depression.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11237.

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Date of creation: Apr 2005
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11237
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  1. Michael D. Bordo & Christopher J. Erceg & Charles L. Evans, 1997. "Money, sticky wages, and the Great Depression," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues WP-97-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  2. Gary Solon & Robert Barsky & Jonathan A. Parker, 1992. "Measuring the Cyclicality of Real Wages: How Important is Composition Bias," NBER Working Papers 4202, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2006. "Business cycle accounting," Staff Report 328, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  4. Crucini, Mario J. & Kahn, James, 1996. "Tariffs and aggregate economic activity: Lessons from the Great Depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 427-467, December.
  5. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1982. "Time to Build and Aggregate Fluctuations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(6), pages 1345-70, November.
  6. 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.
  7. Pedro Amaral & James Macgee, 2002. "Data Appendix to The Great Depression in Canada and the United States: A Neoclassical Perspective," Technical Appendices amaral02, Review of Economic Dynamics.
  8. Lawrence J. Christiano & Martin Eichenbaum & Charles Evans, 2001. "Nominal Rigidities and the Dynamic Effects of a Shock to Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 8403, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Fabrizio Perri & Vincenzo Quadrini, 2002. "The Great Depression in Italy: Trade Restrictions and Real Wage Rigidities," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(1), pages 128-151, January.
  10. Lee E. Ohanian, 2001. "Why did productivity fall so much during the Great Depression?," Staff Report 285, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  11. Lawrence J. Christiano & Roberto Motto & Massimo Rostagno, 2004. "The Great Depression and the Friedman-Schwartz hypothesis," Working Paper 0318, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  12. 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.
  13. Ben S. Bernanke & Kevin Carey, 1996. "Nominal Wage Stickiness and Aggregate Supply in the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 5439, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Bernanke, Ben S & Parkinson, Martin L, 1991. "Procyclical Labor Productivity and Competing Theories of the Business Cycle: Some Evidence from Interwar U.S. Manufacturing Industries," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(3), pages 439-59, June.
  15. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
  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 565-74, November.
  17. 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.
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