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Was the Great Depression a Low-Level Equilibrium?

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  • John Dagsvik
  • Boyan Jovanovic

Abstract

Was the Great Depression the outcome of a massive coordination failure? Or was it a unique equilibrium response to adverse shocks? More generally, do aggregates fluctuate partly because agents occasionally settle on inferior, low-level equilibria? These questions lie at the heart of the current disagreement over how one should view business cycles. This paper estimates an employment model with monetary and real shocks. In one region of the parameter-space the model yields uniqueness, while in the other it yields up to three equilibria. When more than one equilibrium exists, a selection rule is needed. The equilibrium selection rule that we use has a Markovian structure, but the money supply is denied a coordination role -- it can not affect the choice of the equilibrium point. The global maximum likelihood estimates lie in the uniqueness region, implying that instead of being a low-level, coordination-failure equilibrium, the Depression era was caused by movements in fundamentals only. This result held for each of the three subperiods (since 1900) for which the estimation was done, but the estimates are imprecise and the conclusions that we draw from them are tentative. The paper also computes the local maxima in the region of multiplicity, and here some of our estimates indicate that the years 1932 and 1933 would have exhibited low level equilibria had more than one equilibrium existed.

Suggested Citation

  • John Dagsvik & Boyan Jovanovic, 1991. "Was the Great Depression a Low-Level Equilibrium?," NBER Working Papers 3726, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3726
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    Cited by:

    1. Christiano, Lawrence J. & G. Harrison, Sharon, 1999. "Chaos, sunspots and automatic stabilizers," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(1), pages 3-31, August.
    2. Cornell, Christopher M. & Solomon, Raphael H., 2007. "Are currency crises low-state equilibria?: An empirical, three-interest-rate model," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 489-504.
    3. Alberto Bisin & Andrea Moro & Giorgio Topa, 2011. "The empirical content of models with multiple equilibria in economies with social interactions," Staff Reports 504, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    4. G J Bratsiotis & W Robinson, 2002. "Economic Fundamentals and Self-Fulfilling Crises: Some Evidence from Mexico," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 0214, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    5. Christopher M. Cornell & Raphael H. Solomon, 2006. "Are Currency Crises Low-State Equilibria? An Empirical, Three-Interest-Rate Model," Staff Working Papers 06-5, Bank of Canada.
    6. Ratti, Ronald A. & Seo, Jeonghee, 2003. "Multiple equilibria and currency crisis: evidence for Korea," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 681-696, October.
    7. Alberto Bisin & Andrea Moro & Giorgio Topa, 2006. "The Empirical Content of Models with Multiple Equilibria," 2006 Meeting Papers 660, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Ozkaya, Ata, 2013. "The Domestic Debt Intolerance and Bad Equilibrium: An Empirical Default Model," GIAM Working Papers 13-1, Galatasaray University Economic Research Center.
    9. Patrick Artus, 1993. "Défauts de coordination des activités. Principes et exemples," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 44(3), pages 551-568.
    10. Cooper, Russell & Ejarque, Joao, 1995. "Financial intermediation and the Great Depression: a multiple equilibrium interpretation," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 285-323, December.
    11. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2005. "Social interactions and macroeconomics," Working papers 5, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    12. Bratsiotis, George J. & Robinson, Wayne, 2004. "Economic fundamentals and self-fulfilling crises: further evidence from Mexico," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 595-613, June.
    13. Ennis, Huberto M. & Keister, Todd, 2005. "Optimal fiscal policy under multiple equilibria," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(8), pages 1359-1377, November.
    14. Huberto M. Ennis & Todd Keister, 2003. "Aggregate demand management with multiple equilibria," Working Paper 03-04, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
    15. Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Are currency crises self-fulfilling?: A test," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(3-4), pages 263-286, November.
    16. Michael Chui, 2002. "Leading indicators of balance-of-payments crises: a partial review," Bank of England working papers 171, Bank of England.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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