Staff Report 295

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The Great U.K. Depression: A Puzzle and Possible Resolution

Harold L. Cole - Consultant
Lee E. Ohanian - Consultant

Published October 1, 2001

Abstract
Between 1913 and 1929, real GDP per person in the UK fell 1 percent, while this same measure of economic activity rose about 25 percent in the rest of the world. Why was Britain so depressed in a decade of strong economic activity around the world? This paper argues that the standard explanations of contractionary monetary shocks and an overvalued nominal exchange rate are not the prime suspects for killing the British economy. Rather, we argue that large, negative sectoral shocks, coupled with generous unemployment benefits and housing subsidies, are the primary causes of this long and deep depression.


Published In: Review of Economic Dynamics (Vol. 5, No. 1, January 2002, pp. 19-44)

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