DP3254 | Why was Stock Market Volatility so High During the Great Depression? Evidence from 10 Countries During the Interwar Period

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20/03/2002

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Abstract

The extreme levels of stock price volatility found during the Great Depression have often been attributed to political uncertainty. This Paper performs an explicit test of the Merton/Schwert hypothesis that doubts about the survival of the capitalist system were partly responsible. It does so by using a panel data set on political unrest, demonstrations and other indicators of instability in a set of 10 developed countries during the interwar period. Fear of worker militancy and a possible revolution can explain a substantial part of the increase in stock market volatility during the Great Depression.