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Financial Intermediation and The Great Depression: A Multiple Equilibrium Interpretation

  • Russell Cooper
  • Joao Ejarque

This paper explores the behavior of the U.S. economy during the interwar period from the perspective of a model in which the existence of non-convexities in the intermediation process gives rise to a multiplicity of equilibria. The resulting indeterminancy is resolved through a sunspot process which leads to endogenous fluctuations in aggregate economic activity. From this perspective, the Depression period is represented as a regime shift associated with a financial crisis. Our model economy has properties which are broadly consistent with observations over the interwar period. Contrary to observation, the model predicts a negative correlation of consumption and investment as well as a highly volatile capital stock. Our model of financial crisis reproduces many aspects of the Great Depression though the model predicts a much sharper fall in investment than is observed in the data. Modifications to our model (adding durable goods and a capacity utilization choice) do not overcome these deficiencies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5130.

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Date of creation: May 1995
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Vol 43 (1995), pp. 285-323.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5130
Note: EFG
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  1. Bernanke, Ben S, 1995. "The Macroeconomics of the Great Depression: A Comparative Approach," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 27(1), pages 1-28, February.
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  4. Greenwood, Jeremy & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1990. "Financial Development, Growth, and the Distribution of Income," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 1076-1107, October.
  5. Chatterjee, S. & Corbae, D., 1990. "Endogenous Market Participation and the General Equelibrium Value of Money," Working Papers 90-30a, University of Iowa, Department of Economics.
  6. Dagsvik, John & Jovanovic, Boyan, 1994. "Was the Great Depression a low-level equilibrium?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 1711-1729, December.
  7. Azariadis, Costas & Smith, Bruce, 1998. "Financial Intermediation and Regime Switching in Business Cycles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(3), pages 516-36, June.
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  12. Gertler, Mark, 1988. "Financial Structure and Aggregate Economic Activity: An Overview," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 20(3), pages 559-88, August.
  13. René Garcia & Pierre Perron, 1995. "An Analysis of the Real Interest Rate Under Regime Shifts," CIRANO Working Papers 95s-05, CIRANO.
  14. Greenwood, Jeremy & Hercowitz, Zvi & Huffman, Gregory W, 1988. "Investment, Capacity Utilization, and the Real Business Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(3), pages 402-17, June.
  15. Satyajit Chatterjee & Russell Cooper & B. Ravikumar, 1993. "Strategic Complementarity in Business Formation: Aggregate Fluctuations and Sunspot Equilibria," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(4), pages 795-811.
  16. Jovanovic, Boyan, 1988. "Observable Implications Of Models With Multiple Equilibria," Working Papers 88-20, C.V. Starr Center for Applied Economics, New York University.
  17. 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.
  18. Mishkin, Frederic S., 1978. "The Household Balance Sheet and the Great Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(04), pages 918-937, December.
  19. Hamilton, James D., 1987. "Monetary factors in the great depression," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-169, March.
  20. Russell Cooper & Andrew John, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-463.
  21. Jonas D.M. Fisher, 1998. "Credit market imperfections and the heterogeneous response of firms to monetary shocks," Working Paper Series, Macroeconomic Issues 96-23, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
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  24. 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.
  25. Robert J. Barro & Robert G. King, 1984. "Time-Separable Preferences and Intertemporal-Substitution Models of Business Cycles," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 99(4), pages 817-839.
  26. Greenwood, J. & Hercowitz, Z. & Krusell, P., 1992. "Macroeconomic Implications of Investment-Specific Technological Change," Papers 527, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
  27. Fulghieri, Paolo & Rovelli, Riccardo, 1998. "Capital markets, financial intermediaries, and liquidity supply," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 1157-1180, September.
  28. Smith, Bruce D, 1991. "Bank Panics, Suspensions, and Geography: Some Notes on the "Contagion of Fear" in Banking," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(2), pages 230-48, April.
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  31. repec:cup:macdyn:v:4:y:2000:i:4:p:423-47 is not listed on IDEAS
  32. Russell Cooper & Joao Ejarque, 1994. "Financial Intermediation and Aggregate Fluctuations: A Quantative Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4819, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  33. Nathan Balke & Robert J. Gordon, 1986. "Appendix B: Historical Data," NBER Chapters, in: The American Business Cycle: Continuity and Change, pages 781-850 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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