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The Long Slump

  • Robert E. Hall

In a market-clearing economy, declines in demand from one sector do not cause large declines in aggregatge output because other sectors expand. The key price mediating the response is the interest rate. A decline in the rate stimulates all categories of spending. But in a low-inflation economy, the room for a decline in the rate is small, because of the notorious lower limit of zero on the nominal interest rate. In the Great Depression, substantial deflation caused the real interest rate to reach high levels. In the Great Slump that began at the end of 2007, low inflation resulted in an only slightly negative real rate when full employment called for a much lower real rate because of declines in demand. Fortunately the inflation rate hardly responded to conditions in product and labor markets, else deflation might have occurred, with an even higher real interest rate. I concentrate on three closely related sources of declines in demand: the buildup of excess stocks of housing and consumer durables, the corresponding expansion of consumer debt that financed the buildup, and financial frictions that resulted from the decline in real-estate prices.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16741.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
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Publication status: published as Robert E. Hall, 2011. "The Long Slump," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 431-69, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16741
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  1. Richard Blundell & Luigi Pistaferri & Ian Preston, 2008. "Consumption Inequality and Partial Insurance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(5), pages 1887-1921, December.
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  8. Christina D. Romer, 1991. "What Ended the Great Depression?," NBER Working Papers 3829, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gertler, Mark & Karadi, Peter, 2011. "A model of unconventional monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 17-34, January.
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  11. Townsend, Robert M., 1979. "Optimal contracts and competitive markets with costly state verification," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 265-293, October.
  12. Alberto Martin & Jaume Ventura, 2010. "Theoretical Notes on Bubbles and the Current Crisis," Working Papers 519, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  13. Robert E. Hall, 2010. "Why Does the Economy Fall to Pieces after a Financial Crisis?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 3-20, Fall.
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  15. Robert E. Hall, 2009. "Reconciling Cyclical Movements in the Marginal Value of Time and the Marginal Product of Labor," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(2), pages 281-323, 04.
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