Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Let's Write About the Great Depression!

I'm trying to churn out some working papers this summer, and it seems obligatory for aspiring economists to write at least something about the Great Depression. (Or is that just a Berkeley thing?)

So here is my shot at it. Even more than my previously posted papers, this one is very, very preliminary. I had the idea for it the day before yesterday, to give you a sense of just how preliminary it is. It is a little infant paper, born in the surge of sustained productivity brought about by yesterday's rainy weather. It needs your comments.

Abstract: Economic historians have noted how the memory of the Great Depression has shaped economic decision making in subsequent eras. This paper discusses history as metaphor, focusing on metaphorical thinking tying the Great Recession to the Great Depression. The theoretical foundations of this paper come from economic history and behavioral economics, while the empirical
strategy combines quantitative and narrative approaches drawing on new technology: Google Insights for Search, the news database Dow Jones Factiva, and language processing code. Google Insights for Search is a tool that provides access to search volume data in weekly time series format from 2004 to the present. Searches related to the Great Depression display strong seasonality, which may be interpreted in terms of the academic calendar. Search volume increases significantly at the onset of the financial and economic crisis. In 2008 and 2009, people begin searching for
the Great Depression in conjunction with searches for Recession, Another Great Depression, New Great Depression, etc. Searches for Another Great Depression or Next Great Depression were most prevalent in states hit harder by mass layoff events, foreclosures, and unemployment insurance claims. Factiva and language processing code for content analysis are used to analyze trends in news coverage related to the Great Depression/Recession and the focus of the metaphor.

[Edited to update to more recent draft]

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