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Does Monetary Policy Matter? A New Test in the Spirit of Friedman and Schwartz

  • Christina D. Romer
  • David H. Romer

This paper uses the historical record to isolate episodes in which there were large monetary disturbances not caused by output fluctuations. It then tests whether these monetary changes have important real effects. The central part of the paper is a study of postwar U.S. monetary history. We identify six episodes in which the Federal Reserve in effect decided to attempt to create a recession to reduce inflation. We find that a shift to anti-inflationary policy led, on average, to a rise in the unemployment rate of two percentage points, and that this effect is highly statistically significant and robust to a variety of changes in specification. We reach three other major conclusions. First, the real effects of these monetary disturbances are highly persistent. Second, the six shocks that we identify account for a considerable fraction of postwar economic fluctuations. And third, evidence from the interwar era also suggests that monetary disturbances have large real effects.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2966.

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Date of creation: May 1989
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Olivier Jean Blanchard and Stanley Fischer (eds.) NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1989. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1989.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2966
Note: EFG ME
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  1. Campbell, John & Mankiw, Gregory, 1987. "Are Output Fluctuations Transitory?," Scholarly Articles 3122545, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Robert J. Gordon & James A. Wilcox, 1978. "Monetarist Interpretations of the Great Depression: An Evaluation and Critique," NBER Working Papers 0300, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David F. Hendry & Neil R. Ericsson, 1985. "Assertion without empirical basis : an econometric appraisal of monetary trends in ... the United Kingdom, by Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz," International Finance Discussion Papers 270, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Romer, Christina D, 1990. "The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(3), pages 597-624, August.
  5. Romer, Christina D., 1988. "World War I and the postwar depression A reinterpretation based on alternative estimates of GNP," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 91-115, July.
  6. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Danny Quah, 1988. "The Dynamic Effects of Aggregate Demand and Supply Disturbance," Working papers 497, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  7. Ben S. Bernanke, 1983. "Non-Monetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in the Propagation of the Great Depression," NBER Working Papers 1054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. repec:fth:harver:1418 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Hamilton, James D., 1987. "Monetary factors in the great depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-169, March.
  10. Michael D. Bordo, 1988. "The Contribution of a Monetary History of the United States: 1867 to 1960 To Monetary History," NBER Working Papers 2549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Cochrane, John H, 1988. "How Big Is the Random Walk in GNP?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(5), pages 893-920, October.
  12. J. Bradford DeLong & Lawrence H. Summers, 1988. "How Does Macroeconomic Policy Affect Output?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 19(2), pages 433-494.
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