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Employment and Unemployment in the 1930s

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  • Robert A. Margo

Abstract

This paper surveys recent research on employment and unemployment in the 1930s. Unlike earlier studies that tended to rely heavily on aggregate time series, the research discussed in this paper focuses on disaggregated data. This shift in focus stems from two factors. First, dissaggregated evidence provides many more degrees of freedom than the decade of annual observations associated with the depression and thus can prove helpful in discriminating between macroeconomic models. Second, and more importantly, disaggregation has revealed aspects of labor market behavior hidden in the time series that are essential to their proper interpretation and which are, in any case, important in their own right. In particular, the findings dispute the view that representative-agent models are useful for interpreting shifts in employment and unemployment over the course of the Depression.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert A. Margo, 1992. "Employment and Unemployment in the 1930s," NBER Working Papers 4174, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4174
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. De Long, James Bradford & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "Is Increased Price Flexibility Stabilizing?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1031-1044, December.
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    6. Eichengreen, Barry & Hatton, Tim, 1988. "Interwar Unemployment in International Perspective," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt7bw188gk, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    7. Lucas, Robert E, Jr & Rapping, Leonard A, 1972. "Unemployment in the Great Depression: Is There a Full Explanation?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(1), pages 186-191, Jan.-Feb..
    8. Sundstrom, William A., 1992. "Last Hired, First Fired? Unemployment and Urban Black Workers During the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 52(02), pages 415-429, June.
    9. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1992. "The Great Compression: The Wage Structure in the United States at Mid-Century," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(1), pages 1-34.
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    11. Whatley, Warren C., 1983. "Labor for the Picking: the New Deal in the South," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(04), pages 905-929, December.
    12. Simon, Curtis J & Nardinelli, Clark, 1992. "Does Industrial Diversity Always Reduce Unemployment? Evidence from the Great Depression and After," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(2), pages 384-397, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michelle Alexopoulos & Jon Cohen, 2016. "The Medium Is the Measure: Technical Change and Employment, 1909—1949," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 98(4), pages 792-810, October.
    2. Juan-Pierré BRUWER & André VAN DEN BERG, 2017. "The conduciveness of the South African economic environment and Small, Medium and Micro Enterprise sustainability: A literature review," Expert Journal of Business and Management, Sprint Investify, vol. 5(1), pages 1-12.
    3. Bordo, Michael D. & Evans, Charles L., 1995. "Labor productivity during the Great Depression," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 41-45, January.
    4. Neumann, Todd C. & Fishback, Price V. & Kantor, Shawn, 2010. "The Dynamics of Relief Spending and the Private Urban Labor Market During the New Deal," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 70(01), pages 195-220, March.
    5. Richard B. Freeman, 2013. "Failing the Test? The Flexible U.S. Job Market in the Great Recession," NBER Working Papers 19587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. repec:dgr:rugggd:gd-108 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Matthew N. Luzzetti & Lee E. Ohanian, 2012. "The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money after 75 Years: The Importance of Being in the Right Place at the Right Time," Chapters,in: Keynes’s General Theory, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. repec:bla:intfin:v:19:y:2016:i:3:p:353-374 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Leah Platt Boustan & Price V. Fishback & Shawn Kantor, 2010. "The Effect of Internal Migration on Local Labor Markets:American Cities during the Great Depression," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(4), pages 719-746, October.
    10. Jong, H. de & Woltjer, P., 2009. "A Comparison of Real Output and Productivity for British and American Manufacturing in 1935," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-108, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
    11. Kris Inwood & Chris Minns & Fraser Summerfield, 2016. "Reverse assimilation? Immigrants in the Canadian labour market during the Great Depression," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(3), pages 299-321.
    12. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:137-143 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Charles W. Calomiris & Christopher Hanes, 1994. "Historical Macroeconomics and American Macroeconomic History," NBER Working Papers 4935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Price V. Fishback & John Joseph Wallis, 2012. "What Was New About the New Deal?," NBER Working Papers 18271, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Herman De Jong & Pieter Woltjer, 2011. "Depression dynamics: a new estimate of the Anglo‐American manufacturing productivity gap in the interwar period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 64(2), pages 472-492, May.
    16. repec:aea:aejpol:v:10:y:2018:i:2:p:39-61 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Cooper, R. & Corbae, D., 1997. "Financial Fragility and the Great Depression," Working Papers 97-08, University of Iowa, Department of Economics.
    18. John Komlos, 2016. "Unemployment in a Just Economy," CESifo Working Paper Series 5974, CESifo Group Munich.
    19. George S. Tavlas, 2016. "New perspectives on the Great Depression: a review essay," Working Papers 212, Bank of Greece.
    20. Rosenbloom, Joshua L. & Sundstrom, William A., 1999. "The Sources of Regional Variation in the Severity of the Great Depression: Evidence from U.S. Manufacturing, 1919–1937," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 59(03), pages 714-747, September.
    21. Daniele Coen-Pirani & Michael Wooley, 2018. "Fiscal Centralization: Theory and Evidence from the Great Depression," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 39-61, May.
    22. repec:eee:moneco:v:92:y:2017:i:c:p:112-129 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity

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