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The Lessons from the Banking Panics in the United States in the 1930s for the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008

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  • Michael D. Bordo
  • John Landon-Lane

Abstract

In this paper we revisit the debate over the role of the banking panics in 1930-33 in precipitating the Great Contraction. The issue hinges over whether the panics were illiquidity shocks and hence in support of Friedman and Schwartz (1963) greatly exacerbated the recession which had begun in 1929, or whether they largely reflected insolvency in response to the recession caused by other forces. Based on a VAR and new data on the sources of bank failures in the 1930s from Richardson (2007), we find that illiquidity shocks played a key role in explaining the bank failures during the Friedman and Schwartz banking panic windows. In the recent crisis the Federal Reserve learned the Friedman and Schwartz lesson from the banking panics of the 1930s of conducting expansionary open market policy to meet demands for liquidity. Unlike the 1930s the deepest problem of the recent crisis was not illiquidity but insolvency and especially the fear of insolvency of counterparties.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Bordo & John Landon-Lane, 2010. "The Lessons from the Banking Panics in the United States in the 1930s for the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008," NBER Working Papers 16365, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16365
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. White, Eugene Nelson, 1984. "A Reinterpretation of the Banking Crisis of 1930," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 44(01), pages 119-138, March.
    2. Mark A. Carlson, 2008. "Alternatives for distressed banks and the panics of the Great Depression," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2008-07, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Mark Carlson & Kris James Mitchener, 2009. "Branch Banking as a Device for Discipline: Competition and Bank Survivorship during the Great Depression," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 165-210, April.
    4. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark & Gilchrist, Simon, 1996. "The Financial Accelerator and the Flight to Quality," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(1), pages 1-15, February.
    5. Gary B. Gorton, 2010. "Questions and Answers about the Financial Crisis," NBER Working Papers 15787, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Richardson, Gary, 2007. "Categories and causes of bank distress during the great depression, 1929-1933: The illiquidity versus insolvency debate revisited," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 44(4), pages 588-607, October.
    7. Tallman, Ellis W & Wicker, Elmus R., 2009. "Banking and Financial Crises in United States History: What Guidance can History Offer Policymakers?," MPRA Paper 21839, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. David C. Wheelock, 1995. "Regulation, market structure and the bank failures of the Great Depression," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 27-38.
    9. Gary Richardson, 2006. "Correspondent Clearing and the Banking Panics of the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 12716, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Gary Richardson & William Troost, 2006. "Monetary Intervention Mitigated Banking Panics During the Great Depression: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from the Federal Reserve District Border in Mississippi, 1929 to 1933," NBER Working Papers 12591, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Klein, Alexander & Otsuy, Keisuke, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 147, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    2. Nanda, Ramana & Nicholas, Tom, 2014. "Did bank distress stifle innovation during the Great Depression?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(2), pages 273-292.
    3. Michael D. Bordo, 2013. "The Federal Reserve's Role: Actions Before, During, and After the 2008 Panic in the Historical Context of the Great Contraction," Economics Working Papers 13111, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
    4. Alex Klein & Keisuke Otsu, 2013. "Efficiency, Distortions and Factor Utilization during the Interwar Period," Studies in Economics 1317, School of Economics, University of Kent.
    5. Bagliano, Fabio C. & Morana, Claudio, 2012. "The Great Recession: US dynamics and spillovers to the world economy," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 1-13.
    6. Michael D. Bordo, 2014. "The Federal Reserve's Role: Actions Before, During, and After the 2008 Panic the Historical Context of the Great Contraction," Book Chapters,in: Martin Neil Baily & John B. Taylor (ed.), Across the Great Divide: New Perspectives on the Financial Crisis, chapter 6 Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy
    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

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