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Gold Sterilization and the Recession of 1937-38

  • Douglas A. Irwin

The Recession of 1937-38 is often cited as illustrating the dangers of withdrawing fiscal and monetary stimulus too early in a weak recovery. Yet our understanding of this severe downturn is incomplete: existing studies find that changes in fiscal policy were small in comparison to the magnitude of the downturn and that higher reserve requirements were not binding on banks. This paper focuses on a neglected change in monetary policy, the sterilization of gold inflows during 1937, and finds that it exerted a powerful contractionary force during this period. The transmission of this monetary shock to the real economy appears to have worked through lower asset (equity) prices and higher interest rates.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17595.

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Date of creation: Nov 2011
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Publication status: published as Financial History Review / Volume 19 / Issue 03 / December 2012, pp 249 - 267 Copyright © European Association for Banking and Financial History e.V. 2012 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0968565012000236 (About DOI), Published online: 31 October 2012
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17595
Note: DAE ME
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  1. Gauti B. Eggertsson, 2005. "Great expectations and the end of the depression," Staff Reports 234, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  2. Bordo, Michael D & Choudhri, Ehsan U & Schwartz, Anna J, 1995. "Could Stable Money Have Averted the Great Contraction?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 484-505, July.
  3. Hanes, Christopher, 2006. "The Liquidity Trap and U.S. Interest Rates in the 1930s," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 38(1), pages 163-194, February.
  4. Charles W. Calomiris & Joseph Mason & David Wheelock, 2011. "Did Doubling Reserve Requirements Cause the Recession of 1937-1938? A Microeconomic Approach," NBER Working Papers 16688, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Milton Friedman & Anna Jacobson Schwartz, 1970. "Introduction to "Monetary Statistics of the United States: Estimates, Sources, Methods"," NBER Chapters, in: Monetary Statistics of the United States: Estimates, Sources, Methods, pages 1-85 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Gauti B. Eggertsson & Benjamin Pugsley, 2006. "The Mistake of 1937: A General Equilibrium Analysis," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 24(S1), pages 151-190, December.
  7. François R. Velde, 2009. "The recession of 1937 - a cautionary tale," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q IV, pages 16-37.
  8. Robert J. Gordon, 1986. "Front matter, The American Business Cycle. Continuity and Change," NBER Chapters, in: The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change, pages -15 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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