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The Dynamics of Relief Spending and the Private Urban Labor Market During the New Deal

  • Todd C. Neumann
  • Price V. Fishback
  • Shawn Kantor

During the New Deal the Roosevelt Administration dramatically expanded relief spending to combat extraordinarily high rates of unemployment. We examine the dynamic relationships between relief spending and local private labor markets using a new panel data set of monthly relief, private employment and private earnings for major U.S. cities in the 1930s. Impulse response functions derived from a panel VAR model that controls for time and city fixed effects show that a work relief shock in period t-1 led to a decline in private employment and a rise in private monthly earnings. The finding offers evidence consistent with contemporary employers' complaints that work relief made it more difficult to hire, even though work relief officials followed their stated policies to avoid affecting private labor markets directly. Meanwhile, negative shocks to private employment led to increases in work relief, consistent with Roosevelt's stated goal of using relief to promote relief and recovery.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 13692.

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Date of creation: Dec 2007
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Publication status: published as Neumann, Todd C. & Fishback, Price V. & Kantor, Shawn, 2010. "The Dynamics of Relief Spending and the Private Urban Labor Market During the New Deal," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(01), pages 195-220, March.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13692
Note: DAE EFG
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  1. Bernanke, Ben S, 1986. "Employment, Hours, and Earnings in the Depression: An Analysis of EightManufacturing Industries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 82-109, March.
  2. Alan B. Krueger & Kenneth N. Fortson, 2003. "Do Markets Respond More to More Reliable Labor Market Data? A Test of Market Rationality," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(4), pages 931-957, 06.
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  6. Wallis, John Joseph & Benjamin, Daniel K., 1981. "Public Relief and Private Employment in the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 97-102, March.
  7. Price V. Fishback & Michael R. Haines & Shawn Kantor, 2007. "Births, Deaths, and New Deal Relief during the Great Depression," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 1-14, February.
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  12. Dale T. Mortensen, 1977. "Unemployment Insurance and Job Search Decisions," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(4), pages 505-517, July.
  13. repec:pri:cepsud:88krueger is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Maddala, G S & Wu, Shaowen, 1999. " A Comparative Study of Unit Root Tests with Panel Data and a New Simple Test," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 61(0), pages 631-52, Special I.
  15. Sundstrom, William A., 1992. "Last Hired, First Fired? Unemployment and Urban Black Workers During the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 415-429, June.
  16. Manuel Arellano & Stephen Bond, 1991. "Some Tests of Specification for Panel Data: Monte Carlo Evidence and an Application to Employment Equations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 277-297.
  17. Zellner, Arnold & Palm, Franz, 1974. "Time series analysis and simultaneous equation econometric models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 17-54, May.
  18. Christopher Hanes, 2000. "Nominal Wage Rigidity and Industry Characteristics in the Downturns of 1893, 1929, and 1981," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1432-1446, December.
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