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Who panics during panics? Evidence from a nineteenth century savings bank

  • Cormac Ó Gráda
  • Eugene N. White

Using records of the bank accounts of individual depositors, this paper provides a detailed microeconomic analysis of two nineteenth century banking panics. The panics of 1854 and 1857 were not characterized by an immediate mass panic of depositors and had important time dimensions. We examine depositor behavior using a hazard model. Contagion was the key factor in 1854 but it was not strong enough to create more than a local panic. In contrast, the panic of 1857 began with runs by businessmen and banking sophisticates followed by less informed depositors. Uninformed contagion may have been present, but the evidence suggests that this panic was driven by informational shocks in the face of asymmetric information about the true condition of bank portfolios.

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Paper provided by School of Economics, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 200212.

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Date of creation: Mar 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:200212
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  1. Charles W. Calomiris & Gary Gorton, 1991. "The Origins of Banking Panics: Models, Facts, and Bank Regulation," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Markets and Financial Crises, pages 109-174 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Cormac O Grada & Morgan Kelly, 2000. "Market Contagion: Evidence from the Panics of 1854 and 1857," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1110-1124, December.
  3. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-79, June.
  4. Alter, George & Goldin, Claudia & Rotella, Elyce, 1994. "The Savings of Ordinary Americans: The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society in the Mid-Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 54(04), pages 735-767, December.
  5. Jeffrey A. Frankel and Sergio L. Shmukler., 1996. "Country Fund Discounts, Asymmetric Information and the Mexican Crisis of 1994: Did Local Residents Turn Pessimistic Before International Investors?," Center for International and Development Economics Research (CIDER) Working Papers C96-067, University of California at Berkeley.
  6. Calomiris, Charles W & Kahn, Charles M, 1991. "The Role of Demandable Debt in Structuring Optimal Banking Arrangements," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 497-513, June.
  7. Miron, Jeffrey A, 1986. "Financial Panics, the Seasonality of the Nominal Interest Rate, and theFounding of the Fed," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 125-40, March.
  8. Postlewaite, Andrew & Vives, Xavier, 1987. "Bank Runs as an Equilibrium Phenomenon," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(3), pages 485-91, June.
  9. Claudia Goldin & Robert A. Margo, 1989. "Wages, Prices, and Labor Markets Before the Civil War," NBER Working Papers 3198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Douglas W. Diamond & Philip H. Dybvig, 2000. "Bank runs, deposit insurance, and liquidity," Quarterly Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue Win, pages 14-23.
  11. Chari, V V & Jagannathan, Ravi, 1988. " Banking Panics, Information, and Rational Expectations Equilibrium," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(3), pages 749-61, July.
  12. Gary Gorton & Andrew Winton, 2002. "Financial Intermediation," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 02-28, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
  13. Gorton, Gary, 1985. "Bank suspension of convertibility," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 177-193, March.
  14. S. Rao Aiyagari, 1988. "Banking panics, information, and rational expectations equilibrium," Working Papers 320, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. V.V. Chari & Ravi Jagannathan, 1984. "Banking Panics," Discussion Papers 618, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  16. O Grada, Cormac, 1995. "Ireland: A New Economic History 1780-1939," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198205982, July.
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