NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Deflation and the International Great Depression: A Productivity Puzzle

Harold L. Cole, Lee E. Ohanian, Ron Leung

NBER Working Paper No. 11237
Issued in April 2005
NBER Program(s):   EFG

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.

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This paper was revised on June 15, 2007

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