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The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression: A Comparative Approach

  • Ben S. Bernanke

Recently, research on the causes of the Great Depression has shifted from a heavy emphasis on events in the United States to a broader, more comparative approach that examines the interwar experiences of many countries simultaneously. In this lecture I survey the current state of our knowledge about the Depression from a comparative perspective. On the aggregate demand side of the economy, comparative analysis has greatly strengthened the empirical case for monetary shocks as a major driving force of the Depression; an interesting possibility suggested by this analysis is that the worldwide monetary collapse that began in 1931 may be interpreted as a jump from one Nash equilibrium to another. On the aggregate supply side, comparative empirical studies provide support for both induced financial crisis and sticky nominal wages as mechanisms by which nominal shocks had real effects. Still unresolved is why nominal wages did not adjust more quickly in the face of mass unemployment.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4814.

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Date of creation: Aug 1994
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Publication status: published as Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, February 1995, vol. 27, no. 1,pp. 1-28
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4814
Note: EFG ME
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  1. Hamilton, James D., 1987. "Monetary factors in the great depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-169, March.
  2. Choudhri, Ehsan U & Kochin, Levis A, 1980. "The Exchange Rate and the International Transmission of Business Cycle Disturbances: Some Evidence from the Great Depression," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 12(4), pages 565-74, November.
  3. Grossman, Richard S., 1994. "The Shoe That Didn't Drop: Explaining Banking Stability During the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(03), pages 654-682, September.
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  7. Bernanke, Ben S & Carey, Kevin, 1996. "Nominal Wage Stickiness and Aggregate Supply in the Great Depression," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(3), pages 853-83, August.
  8. Hamilton, James D, 1992. "Was the Deflation during the Great Depression Anticipated? Evidence from the Commodity Futures Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 157-78, March.
  9. Bernanke, Ben & Gertler, Mark, 1990. "Financial Fragility and Economic Performance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(1), pages 87-114, February.
  10. James D. Hamilton, 1988. "Role Of The International Gold Standard In Propagating The Great Depression," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 6(2), pages 67-89, 04.
  11. Eichengreen, Barry & Sachs, Jeffrey, 1986. "Competitive devaluation and the Great Depression : A theoretical reassessment," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 67-71.
  12. Evans, Martin & Wachtel, Paul, 1993. "Were price changes during the Great Depression anticipated? : Evidence from nominal interest rates," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 3-34, August.
  13. Charles W. Calomiris, 1993. "Financial Factors in the Great Depression," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 61-85, Spring.
  14. Barry Eichengreen and Richard S. Grossman., 1994. "Debt Deflation and Financial Instability: Two Historical Explorations," Economics Working Papers 94-231, University of California at Berkeley.
  15. Cooper, Russell, 1990. "Predetermined Wages and Prices and the Impact of Expansionary Government Policy," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(2), pages 205-14, April.
  16. Chevalier, Judith A & Scharfstein, David S, 1996. "Capital-Market Imperfections and Countercyclical Markups: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 703-25, September.
  17. Eichengreen, Barry, 1984. "Central bank cooperation under the interwar gold standard," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 64-87, January.
  18. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in Propagation of the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 257-76, June.
  19. Peter Temin, 1993. "Transmission of the Great Depression," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 87-102, Spring.
  20. 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.
  21. Christina D. Romer, 1993. "The Nation in Depression," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 19-39, Spring.
  22. Barro, Robert J., 1977. "Long-term contracting, sticky prices, and monetary policy," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 305-316, July.
  23. Eichengreen, Barry, 1995. "Central bank co-operation and exchange rate commitments: the classical and interwar gold standards compared," Financial History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 2(02), pages 99-117, October.
  24. Ben Bemanke & Harold James, 1991. "The Gold Standard, Deflation, and Financial Crisis in the Great Depression: An International Comparison," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Markets and Financial Crises, pages 33-68 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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