Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

Did Bank Distress Stifle Innovation During the Great Depression?

by Ramana Nanda and Tom Nicholas


We find a negative relationship between bank distress and the level, quality and trajectory of firm-level innovation during the Great Depression, particularly for R&D firms operating in capital intensive industries. However, we also show that because a sufficient number of R&D intensive firms were located in counties with lower levels of bank distress, or were operating in less capital intensive industries, the negative effects were mitigated in aggregate. Although Depression era bank distress was associated with the stifling of innovation, our results also help to explain why technological development was still robust following one of the largest shocks in the history of the U.S. banking system.

Keywords: Great Depression; patents; R&D; Bank Distress; Patents; Research and Development; Financial Crisis; Innovation and Invention; Banks and Banking; Banking Industry; United States;


Nanda, Ramana, and Tom Nicholas. "Did Bank Distress Stifle Innovation During the Great Depression?" Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 12-106, May 2012. (Revised October 2013. Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Financial Economics.)