Comment FSP asked a question
FSP Los Angeles 41 minutes ago My question is this: Would the Lesser Depression have occurred if we did not have the "financial superstructure" of sub-prime backed securities, and just had instead the bursting of a housing bubble, without the implosion of those financial products adding to the problem? Or, can the two not be separated? I think at least a rough attempt to separate the two factors (housing bubble and financial superstructure) can be managed. Dean Baker has definitely claimed that the lesser depression would have occurred without the financial superstructure
The rough approach (Baker's approach) is to look at the much smaller past fluctuations in housing prices back before the RMBS CDO CDS superstructure was built and the subsequent fluctuations in GDP and employment. Baker argues that GDP behaved as one would forecast based on housing prices and regressions with pre-superstructure data.
Or you can ask if the financial crisis would have caused a lesser depression even if triggered by something other than a bubble bursting (a bubble in house price or some other price). Here the standard variable is the quality premium on corporate bonds (the spread between say a B corporate bond rate and AAA bonds or treasuries). This spiked in late 2008.
The time series of the two candidate explanatory variables are very very different. The lag, magnitude and duration of the effects on GDP can be estimated with 20th century data.
This is crude, but not as bad as my knowledge of the literature. I know of people (Del Negro & Schorfheide 2012 ) who look at quality premia and what happened next. I know of Baker who looks at house prices and what happened next. I (amazingly) don't know of anyone who has let the two variables into the same regression.