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Bank Failures in Theory and History: The Great Depression and Other "Contagious" Events

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  • Charles W. Calomiris

Abstract

Bank failures during banking crises, in theory, can result either from unwarranted depositor withdrawals during events characterized by contagion or panic, or as the result of fundamental bank insolvency. Various views of contagion are described and compared to historical evidence from banking crises, with special emphasis on the U.S. experience during and prior to the Great Depression. Panics or "contagion" played a small role in bank failure, during or before the Great Depression-era distress. Ironically, the government safety net, which was designed to forestall the (overestimated) risks of contagion, seems to have become the primary source of systemic instability in banking in the current era.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles W. Calomiris, 2007. "Bank Failures in Theory and History: The Great Depression and Other "Contagious" Events," NBER Working Papers 13597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13597
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

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    4. Seán Kenny & Anders Ögren & Liang Zhao, 2023. "The highs and the lows: bank failures in Sweden through inflation and deflation, 1914–1926," European Review of Economic History, European Historical Economics Society, vol. 27(2), pages 223-249.
    5. Maria-Eleni K. Agoraki & Manthos D. Delis & Panagiotis K. Staikouras, 2010. "The effect of board size and composition on bank efficiency," International Journal of Banking, Accounting and Finance, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 2(4), pages 357-386.
    6. Philip Molyneux & Vineet Upreti & Tim Zhou, 2022. "Depositor Market Discipline: New Evidence from Selling Failed Banks," Working Papers 2022-03, Swansea University, School of Management.
    7. repec:zbw:bofitp:2013_002 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Iskandar Simorangkir, 2011. "Determinant Of Bank Runs In Indonesia: Bad Luck Or Fundamental?," Bulletin of Monetary Economics and Banking, Bank Indonesia, vol. 14(1), pages 51-73, July.
    9. Fungacova, Zuzana & Turk, Rima & Weill, Laurent, 2021. "High liquidity creation and bank failures," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 57(C).
    10. Francesca Carapella, 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.).
    11. Fungáčová, Zuzana & Turk-Ariss, Rima & Weill, Laurent, 2013. "Does excessive liquidity creation trigger bank failures?," BOFIT Discussion Papers 2/2013, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.

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    JEL classification:

    • E5 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit
    • G2 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services
    • N2 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions

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