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Did Doubling Reserve Requirements Cause the 1937-38 Recession? New Evidence on the Impact of Reserve Requirements on Bank Reserve Demand and Lending

In 1936-37, the Federal Reserve doubled member banks' reserve requirements. Friedman and Schwartz (1963) famously argued that the doubling increased reserve demand and forced the money supply to contract, which they argued caused the recession of 1937-38. Using a new database on individual banks, we show that higher reserve requirements did not generally increase banks' reserve demand or contract lending because reserve requirements were not binding for most banks. Aggregate effects on credit supply from reserve requirement increases were therefore economically small and statistically zero.

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https://doi.org/10.20955/wp.2022.011