Deflation and the international Great Depression: a productivity puzzle
Harold L. Cole
Lee E. Ohanian
This paper develops the first dynamic, stochastic, general equilibrium analysis of the International Great Depression. We construct a new version of Lucas?s (1972) monetary misperceptions model, with a real shock (productivity) and a nominal shock (money supply). We use the model with a newly assembled panel data set from 17 countries between 1929-33 to quantify the fraction of output change and price change that is accounted for by these two shocks. Data limitations require us to develop a new procedure for identifying the two shocks. The identified productivity shock has a large country-specific component, and is highly correlated with actual productivity. The identified monetary shock has a large common component, and is highly correlated with money supply changes. We find that the model accounts for most of the variation in macroeconomic activity in the panel of countries. About 2/3 of output change is accounted for by the real (productivity) shock, and virtually all of the change in nominal prices is accounted for by the nominal (money supply) shock. The only variable we find that is highly correlated with the productivity shock is stock prices. We conclude that financial friction models are potentially the most promising class of models for understanding the Solow Residual during this period, and thus the Great Depression.
This paper presents a dynamic, stochastic general equilibrium study of the causes of the international Great Depression. We use a fully articulated model to assess the relative contributions of deflation/monetary shocks, which are the most commonly cited shocks for the Depression, and productivity shocks. We find that productivity is the dominant shock, accounting for about 2/3 of the Depression, with the monetary shock accounting for about 1/3. The main reason deflation doesn't account for more of the Depression is because there is no systematic relationship between deflation and output during this period. Our finding that a persistent productivity shock is the key factor stands in contrast to the conventional view that a continuing sequence of unexpected deflation shocks was the major cause of the Depression. We also explore what factors might be causing the productivity shocks. We find some evidence that they are largely related to industrial activity, rather than agricultural activity, and that they are correlated with real exchange rates and non-deflationary shocks to the financial sector.
Depressions ; Deflation (Finance) ; Production (Economic theory)
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