Quarterly Review 2312
Some Observations on the Great Depression
Edward C. Prescott
- Senior Monetary Advisor
The Great Depression in the United States was largely the result of changes in economic institutions that lowered the normal or steady-state market hours per person over 16. The difference in steady-state hours in 1929 and 1939 is over 20 percent. This is a large number, but differences of this size currently exist across the rich industrial countries. The somewhat depressed Japanese economy of the 1990s could very well be the result of workweek length constraints that were adopted in the early 1990s. These constraints lowered steady-state market hours. The failure of the Japanese people to display concern with the performance of their economy suggests that this reduction is what the Japanese people wanted. This is in sharp contrast with the United States in the 1930s when the American people wanted to work more.
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