Shattered rails, ruined credit: Financial fragility and railroad operations in the great depression

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Abstract

This article uses a new panel dataset to investigate the relationship between financial fragility and real activity on U.S. railroads during 1929-1940. Leverage had a negative effect on maintenance, within small firms only. Bankruptcy had a positive effect on maintenance and employment, within large firms only. Both leverage and bankruptcy effects were significantly larger during the worst depression years. Had all railroads been bankrupt during 1930-1933, GDP would have increased by 0.2 percent annually, and employment by 0.125 percent annually. Loans by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation had no impact on maintenance or employment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)802-825
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Economic History
Volume63
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2003
Externally publishedYes

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