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Cliometrica

, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 127–152 | Cite as

Hysteresis and persistent long-term unemployment: the American Beveridge Curve of the Great Depression and World War II

  • Gabriel P. MathyEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Long-term unemployment plagued the American economy of the Great Depression. The stigma of a long unemployment spell made reentering employment difficult even during the brisk economic recovery, which lead to unemployment hysteresis and persistently high joblessness. Unemployment figures disaggregated by duration confirm the importance of hysteresis for the Great Depression, as the long-term unemployed were less likely to return to gainful employment until the war. Using the theoretical framework of the Beveridge Curve, I find that hysteresis was a significant problem during the 1930s, but that the essentially unlimited labor demand during the World War II provided jobs even to the long-term unemployed. As a result, labor market conditions in the 1950s resembled those of the 1920s prior to the Depression and so the labor market scars of the Great Depression were healed.

Keywords

Unemployment Great Depression Beveridge Curve Hysteresis 

JEL Classification

N12 J60 E32 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The support of the Institute for New Economic Thinking and the ALL-UC Economic History Association is much appreciated. Many thanks go to Eric DeLisle for his invaluable assistance in the Social Security Administration Archives and to Diego Garcia and John Escobar for their research assistance.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.American UniversityWashingtonUSA

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