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The Effects of Reconstruction Finance Corporation Assistance on Michigan's Banks' Survival in the 1930s

  • Charles W. Calomiris
  • Joseph R. Mason
  • Marc Weidenmier
  • Katherine Bobroff

This paper examines the effects of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation's (RFC) loan and preferred stock programs on bank failure rates in Michigan during the period 1932-1934, which includes the important Michigan banking crisis of early 1933 and its aftermath. Using a new database on Michigan banks, we employ probit and survival duration analysis to examine the effectiveness of the RFC's loan program (the policy tool employed before March 1933) and the RFC's preferred stock purchases (the policy tool employed after March 1933) on bank failure rates. Our estimates treat the receipt of RFC assistance as an endogenous variable. We are able to identify apparently valid and powerful instruments (predictors of RFC assistance that are not directly related to failure risk) for analyzing the effects of RFC assistance on bank survival. We find that the loan program had no statistically significant effect on the failure rates of banks during the crisis; point estimates are sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and never estimated precisely. This finding is consistent with the view that the effectiveness of debt assistance was undermined by some combination of increasing the indebtedness of financial institutions and subordinating bank depositors. We find that RFC's purchases of preferred stock - which did not increase indebtedness or subordinate depositors - increased the chances that a bank would survive the financial crisis. We also perform a parallel analysis of the effects of RFC preferred stock assistance on the loan supply of surviving banks. We find that RFC assistance not only contributed to loan supply by reducing failure risk; conditional on bank survival, RFC assistance is associated with significantly higher lending by recipient banks from 1931 to 1935.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18427.

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Date of creation: Sep 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Calomiris, Charles W. & Mason, Joseph R. & Weidenmier, Marc & Bobroff, Katherine, 2013. "The effects of reconstruction finance corporation assistance on Michigan's banks' survival in the 1930s," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 50(4), pages 526-547.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18427
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  1. Rebel A. Cole & Jeffery W. Gunther, 1993. "Separating the likelihood and timing of bank failure," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 93-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Mason, Joseph R., 2003. "The political economy of Reconstruction Finance Corporation assistance during the Great Depression," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 101-121, April.
  3. Charles W. Calomiris & Joseph R. Mason, 1994. "Contagion and Bank Failures During the Great Depression: The June 1932 Chicago Banking Panic," NBER Working Papers 4934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Charles W. Calomiris & Joseph R. Mason, 2003. "Fundamentals, Panics, and Bank Distress During the Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1615-1647, December.
  5. Butkiewicz James L., 1995. "The Impact of a Lender of Last Resort during the Great Depression: The Case of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 197-216, April.
  6. Charles W. Calomiris, 2010. "The political lessons of Depression-era banking reform," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(3), pages 540-560, Autumn.
  7. Michael D. Bordo & Claudia Goldin & Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bord98-1, December.
  8. Joseph Mason, 2001. "Do Lender of Last Resort Policies Matter? The Effects of Reconstruction Finance Corporation Assistance to Banks During the Great Depression," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 77-95, September.
  9. Eugene N. White, 1998. "The Legacy of Deposit Insurance: The Growth, Spread, and Cost of Insuring Financial Intermediaries," NBER Chapters, in: The Defining Moment: The Great Depression and the American Economy in the Twentieth Century, pages 87-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Charles W. Calomiris & Eugene N. White, 1994. "The Origins of Federal Deposit Insurance," NBER Chapters, in: The Regulated Economy: A Historical Approach to Political Economy, pages 145-188 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Alston Lee J. & Grove Wayne A. & Wheelock David C., 1994. "Why Do Banks Fail? Evidence from the 1920s," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 409-431, October.
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