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Unemployment, Inflation, and Wages in the American Depression: Are There Lessons for Europe?

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  • Ben Bernanke
  • Martin Parkinson

Abstract

In this paper, we consider whether there are lessons to be drawn from the experience of the American economy during the 1930's for the current European situation. The comparison reveals some important differences: In particular, the persistence of American unemployment in the 1930's reflected to a much greater degree a sequence of large destabilizing shocks, and much less a low-level equilibrium trap, than does modern European unemployment. The self-correcting tendencies of the 1930's U.S. economy were probably much stronger than is generally acknowledged. However, the experience of the Depression era confirms the modern observation that the level of unemployment does not much affect the rate of inflation--an observation that, we argue, is consistent with macro theory. The Depression experience also supports the impression that political factors are important in real wage determination.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Bernanke & Martin Parkinson, 1989. "Unemployment, Inflation, and Wages in the American Depression: Are There Lessons for Europe?," NBER Working Papers 2862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2862
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    1. Peter Temin & Barrie A. Wigmore, 1988. "The End of One Big Deflation," Working papers 503, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alfonso ARPAIA & Nicola CURCI, "undated". "EU labour market behaviour during the Great Recession," Working Papers wp2010-6, Department of the Treasury, Ministry of the Economy and of Finance.
    2. Price V. Fishback & William C. Horrace & Shawn Kantor, 2001. "The Impact of New Deal Expenditures on Local Economic Activity: An Examination of Retail Sales, 1929-1939," NBER Working Papers 8108, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Romer, Christina D., 1992. "What Ended the Great Depression?," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(04), pages 757-784, December.
    4. Antonio Spilimbergo & Steve Symansky & Olivier Blanchard & Carlo Cottarelli, 2009. "Fiscal Policy For The Crisis," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(2), pages 26-32, July.
    5. Robert A. Margo, 1993. "Employment and Unemployment in the 1930s," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 41-59, Spring.

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