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How Attitudes Regarding Consumer Indebtedness and Durable Goods Affected Household Expenditure, 1920-1937

Drexler, Lauren Michele (2009)
Honors Thesis (48 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Zha, Tao
Committee Members: Carlson, Leonard A ; Shapiro, William ;
Research Fields: Economics, General; Economics, Commerce - Business; Economics, History
Keywords: Durable Goods; Installment Plan
Program: College Honors Program, Economics
Permanent url: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/1b7rg

Abstract


How Attitudes Regarding Consumer Indebtedness and Durable Goods Affected
Household Expenditure, 1920-1937
By Lauren M. Drexler
This paper outlines attitudes regarding luxury durable goods and instruments of consumer
debt during the early 20th century. I illustrate how these opinions altered the way in which
consumers purchased durable goods and acquired debt, most notably via their use of the
installment plan. Radical modifications in the way public figures viewed the influence that
these behaviors had on economic prosperity and the quality of society occurred
simultaneous to statistically significant shifts in the way a household's indebtedness
altered its expenditure on durable goods.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Section I - Introduction 1


Section II - The Pre-1920s Portrayal of Envy and Thrift 3


Section III - The Shift in Availability and Attitudes and the Subsequent Debate 6

Section IV - The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Resulting Blame and Confusion 18

Section V - The Great Contraction and a Reversion Back to Pre-Depression Patterns 22

Section VI - Data Description and Empirical Models 27

Section VII - Empirical Results 33

Section VIII - Implications 37


Section IX - Appendix 39

List of Tables
Table 1 - Consumer Indebtedness, 1921-1937 9
Table 2 - Analysis of Consumer Durable Expenditure, 1921 - 1939 35
Table A.1 - Changes in Debt and Changes Expenditure in Three Periods 39

List of Figures
Figure 1 - Debt as a Percentage of Income, 1921-1937 7
Figure 2 - Gross Expenditure on Durables, 1921-1937 8
Figure 3 - Debt and Expenditure, 1921-1937 20
Figure 4 - Changes in Debt and Expenditure, 1922-1937 21
Figure 5 - Gross Domestic Product, 1929-1935 23
Figure 6 - Unemployment Rate,1929-1935 23
Figure A.1 - Roosevelt High School Thrift Creed, 1925 39



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