The Prewar Business Cycle Reconsidered: New Estimates of Gross NationalProduct, 1869-1918
Christina D. Romer
This paper shows that the existing estimates of prewar gross national
product exaggerate the size of cyclical fluctuations. The source of the
exaggeration is that the original Kuznets estimates are based on the
assumption that GNP moves one-for-one with commodity output valued at
producer prices. New estimates of GNP for 1869-1918 are derived using the
estimated aggregate relationship between GNP and commodity output for the
interwar and postwar eras. The new estimates of GNP indicate that the
business cycle is only slightly more severe in the pre-Worid War I era than in the post-World War II era.
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