A Historical Welfare Analysis of Social Security: Whom Did the Program Benefit?
A well-established result in the literature is that Social Security tends to reduce steady state welfare in a standard life cycle model. However, less is known about the historical effects of the program on agents who were alive when the program was adopted. In a computational life cycle model that simulates the Great Depression and the enactment of Social Security, this paper quantifies the welfare effects of the program's enactment on the cohorts of agents who experienced it. In contrast to the standard steady state results, we find that the adoption of the original Social Security tended ...
Sovereign Default in the US
In the absence of a judicial mechanism to reduce the debt burden of a sovereign member of our Union, the resolution process can be quick but perhaps too indifferent to the health, safety, and welfare of the affected residents. In this paper, I use evidence from the Arkansas state archives to provide a description of the events surrounding the default of the state in 1933. I examine the evolution of the negotiations, the outcomes, and the role of fiscal policy.
Managing Stigma during a Financial Crisis
How should regulators design effective emergency lending facilities to mitigate stigma during a financial crisis? I explore this question using data from an unexpected disclosure of partial lists of banks that secretly borrowed from the lender of last resort during the Great Depression. I find evidence of stigma in that depositors withdrew more deposits from banks included on the lists in comparison with banks left off the lists. However, stigma dissipated for banks that were revealed earlier after subsequent banks were revealed. Overall, the results suggest that an emergency lending facility ...
Inflation Expectations and Recovery from the Depression in 1933: Evidence from the Narrative Record
This paper uses the historical narrative record to determine whether inflation expectations shifted during the second quarter of 1933, precisely as the recovery from the Great Depression took hold. First, by examining the historical news record and the forecasts of contemporary business analysts, we show that inflation expectations increased dramatically. Second, using an event-studies approach, we identify the impact on financial markets of the key events that shifted inflation expectations. Third, we gather new evidence--both quantitative and narrative--that indicates that the shift in ...
Modern recipes for financial crises
Remarks at the University of Iowa, December 4, 2015.
Reducing moral hazard at the expense of market discipline: the effectiveness of double liability before and during the Great Depression
Prior to the Great Depression, regulators imposed double liability on bank shareholders to ensure financial stability and protect depositors. Under double liability, shareholders of failing banks lost their initial investment and had to pay up to the par value of the stock in order to compensate depositors. We examine whether double liability was effective at mitigating bank risks and providing a safety net for depositors before and during the Great Depression. We first develop a model that demonstrates two competing effects of double liability: a direct effect that constrains bank risk ...
Trade, Relative Prices, and the Canadian Great Depression
Canadian GNP per capita fell by roughly a third between 1928 and 1933. Although the decline and the slow recovery of GNP resemble the American Great Depression, trade was more important in Canada, as exports and imports each accounted for roughly a quarter of Canadian GNP in 1928. The fall in the trade share of GNP of roughly 30 percent between 1928 and 1933 was accompanied by a decline of over 20 percent in the relative prices of exports and imports relative to nontraded goods. We develop a three-sector small open economy model, where wages in the nontraded and import competing sectors ...
Information Management in Times of Crisis
How does information management and control affect bank stability? Following a national bank holiday in 1933, New York state bank regulators suspended the publication of balance sheets of state-charter banks for two years, whereas the national-charter bank regulator did not. We use this divergence in policies to examine how the suspension of bank-specific information affected depositors. We find that state-charter banks experienced significantly less deposit outflows than national-charter banks in 1933. However, the behavior of bank deposits across both types of banks converged in 1934 after ...
The Value of Opacity in a Banking Crisis
During moments of heightened economic uncertainty, authorities often need to decide on how much information to disclose. For example, during crisis periods, we often observe regulators limiting access to bank‑level information with the goal of restoring the public's confidence in banks. Thus, information management often plays a central role in ending financial crises. Despite the perceived importance of managing information about individual banks during a financial crisis, we are not aware of any empirical work that quantifies the effect of such policies. In this blog post, we highlight ...
Interbank Markets and Banking Crises: New Evidence on the Establishment and Impact of the Federal Reserve
This paper examines the impact of the Federal Reserve?s founding on seasonal pressures and contagion risk in the interbank system. Deposit flows among classes of banks were highly seasonal before 1914; amplitude and timing varied regionally. Panics interrupted normal flows as banks throughout the country sought funds from the central money markets simultaneously. Seasonal pressures and contagion risk in the system were lower by the 1920s, when the Fed provided seasonal liquidity and reserves. Panics returned in the 1930s, due in part to shocks from nonmember banks and because the Fed?s ...