Comparing this recession to the Great Depression

In March, when I suggested ways to determine if the “economic narrative” has shifted from recession to recovery, one of my markers to look for was this: “Stories that challenge the premise that this is the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

If you want to read what I now consider to be the definitive essay in the emerging “you-can’t-imagine-how-much-this-is-not-the-Great-Depression” category, check out this post on the’s Freakonomics Blog. It’s part one of a three-part post titled, “The is not another Great Depression,” by the economics historian Price V. Fishback.


“In 1930, Americans produced 8.6 percent fewer final goods and services than in 1929, in 1931 15 percent less, and in 1932 and 1933 roughly 26 percent less than in 1929. It is hard to conceptualize such a drop in G.D.P. Consider this: the 1932 and 1933 figures would have been the equivalent of shutting down all production of goods and services west of the Mississippi River. Annual real G.D.P. did not reach its 1929 level again until 1936. We are experiencing pain now, but the problems of the Great Depression were several magnitudes greater.”

A highly-recommended read.