Skip to main content Accessibility help

How Much Does Political Uncertainty Matter? The Case of Louisiana under Huey Long

  • Gabriel Mathy (a1) and Nicolas L. Ziebarth (a2)


We study the effect of political uncertainty on economic outcomes using the case of Huey Long's tenure as governor and senator of Louisiana during the Great Depression. Based on primary sources, we construct two well-established measures of uncertainty specifically for Louisiana: stock price volatility and newspaper mentions of terms related to “uncertainty” and the economy. Combining these uncertainty measures with employment data from the Census of Manufactures, we attempt to identify the effects of political uncertainty using the state of Mississippi as a control group. We find little support for a negative effect from political uncertainty in Huey Long's Louisiana.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      How Much Does Political Uncertainty Matter? The Case of Louisiana under Huey Long
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      How Much Does Political Uncertainty Matter? The Case of Louisiana under Huey Long
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      How Much Does Political Uncertainty Matter? The Case of Louisiana under Huey Long
      Available formats



Hide All

We thank the Berkeley Economic History Lab, a Cole Grant-in-Aid from the Economic History Association, an ALL-UC Graduate Research Grant, and the University of Iowa for funding data collection. Audiences at the Economic History Association, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Washington Area Economic Association mini-conference provided useful comments, as well as Scott Baker, James Fenske, Mary Hansen, Bob Margo, and two anonymous referees. Josh Hausman was crucial in the early stages of the project. Dan Thomas and Daniel Sullivan were indispensable in collecting the images at the National Archives. All errors are our own.



Hide All
Alexopoulos, Michelle, and Cohen, Jon. “Uncertain Times, Uncertain Measures.” Unpublished Manuscript. University of Toronto, 2009.
Amenta, Edwin, Dunleavy, Kathleen, and Bernstein, Mary. “Stolen Thunder? Huey Long's ‘Share Our Wealth,' Political Mediation, and the Second New Deal.” American Sociological Review 59, no. 5 (1994): 678702.
Baker, Richard B., Frydman, Carola, and Hilt, Eric. “From Plutocracy to Progressivism? The Assassination of President McKinley as a Turning Point in American History.” Unpublished Manuscript, Boston University, 2014.
Baker, Scott R., and Bloom, Nicholas. “Does Uncertainty Reduce Growth? Using Disasters as Natural Experiments.” NBER Working Paper No. 19475, Cambridge, MA, 2013.
Baker, Scott R., Bloom, Nicholas, and Davis, Steven J.Measuring Economic Policy Uncertainty.” NBER Working Paper No. 21633, Cambridge, MA, 2015.
Basu, Susanto, and Bundick, Brent. “Uncertainty Shocks in a Model of Effective Demand.” NBER Working Paper No. 18420, Cambridge, MA, 2012.
Baxter, Marianne, and King, Robert G.Measuring Business Cycles: Approximate Band-Pass Filters for Economic Time Series.” Review of Economics and Statistics 81, no. 4 (1999): 575–93.
Bernanke, Ben S.Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 98, no. 1 (1983): 85106.
Bertola, Giuseppe, Guiso, Luigi, and Pistaferri, Luigi. “Uncertainty and Consumer Durables Adjustment.” Review of Economic Studies 72, no. 4 (2005): 9731007.
Binder, John. “The Event Study Methodology Since 1969.” Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting 11 (1998): 111–37.
Bittlingmayer, George. “Output, Stock Volatility, and Political Uncertainty in a Natural Experiment: Germany, 1880-1940.” The Journal of Finance 53, no. 6 (1998): 2243–57.
Bloom, Nicholas. “The Impact of Uncertainty Shocks.” Econometrica 77 (2009): 623–85.
Bloom, Nicholas, Floetotto, Max, Jaimovich, Nir, et al. “Really Uncertain Business Cycles.” NBER Working Paper No. 18245, Cambridge, MA, 2012.
Bogart, Dan. “‘There Can Be No Partnership with the King': Regulatory Uncertainty and Investment in the English East India Company.” Unpublished Manuscript, UC-Irvine, 2015.
Born, Benjamin, and Pfeifer, Johannes. “Policy Risk and the Business Cycle.” Journal of Monetary Economics 68 (2014): 6885.
Brinkley, Alan. Voices of Protest: Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and the Great Depression. New York: Random House, 1983.
Federer, J. Peter, and Zalewski, David A.Uncertainty as a Propagating Force in the Great Depression.” Journal of Economic History 54, no. 4 (1994): 825–49.
Ferguson, Thomas, and Voth, Hans-Joachim. “Betting on Hitler: The Value of Political Connections in Nazi Germany.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 123, no. 1 (2008): 101–37.
Fernández-Villaverde, Jesús, Guerrón, Pablo, Rubio-Ramírez, Juan F., et al. “Risk Matters: The Real Effects of Volatility Shocks.” American Economic Review 101, no. 6 (2011): 2530–61.
Fineran, John N. Career of a Tinpot Napoleon: Political Biography of Huey P. Long. Baton Rouge, LA: Claitors Pub Div., 1986.
Fishback, Price V., and Kachanovskaya, Valentina. “In Search of the Multiplier for Federal Spending in the States During the Great Depression.” NBER Working Paper No. 16561, Cambridge, MA, 2011.
Hair, William Ivy. The Kingfish and His Realm. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1991.
Higgs, Robert. “Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed after the War.” Independent Review 1 (Spring 1997): 561–90.
Holmes, Thomas J.The Effects of State Policies on the Location of Industry: Evidence from State Borders.” Journal of Political Economy 106, no. 4 (1998): 667705.
Jones, Benjamin F., and Olken, Benjamin A.Do Leaders Matter? National Leadership and Growth Since World War II.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 120, no. 3 (2005): 835–64.
Jones, Benjamin F., and Olken, Benjamin A.Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War.” AEJ: Macroeconomics 1, no. 2 (2009): 5587.
Leduc, Sylvain, and Liu, Zheng. “Uncertainty, Unemployment, and Inflation.” FRBSF Economic Letter 28, San Francisco, CA, 2012.
Libecap, Gary D.The Political Economy of Crude Oil Cartelization in the United States, 1933-1972.” Journal of Economic History 49, no. 4 (1989): 833–55.
Lucas, Robert E. Jr.Milliman Lecture.” University of Washington, Seattle, WA, 2011.
Mathy, Gabriel. “How Much Did Uncertainty Shocks Matter in the Great Depression?” American University Working Paper, Washington, DC, 2014.
Mathy, Gabriel. “Stock Volatility, Return Jumps and Uncertainty Shocks During the Great Depression.” Financial History Review 23, no. 2 (2016): 165–92.
Mayer, Thomas, and Chatterji, Monojit. “Political Shocks and Investment: Some Evidence from the 1930s.” Journal of Economic History 45, no. 4 (1985): 913–24.
Nakamura, Emi, and Steinsson, Jón. “Fiscal Stimulus in a Monetary Union: Evidence from U.S. Regions.” American Economic Review 104, no. 3 (2014): 753–92.
Pastor, Lubos, and Veronesi, Pietro. “Uncertainty about Government Policy and Stock Prices.” Journal of Finance 67, no. 4 (2012): 1219–64.
Romer, Christina D.The Great Crash and the Onset of the Great Depression.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 105, no. 3 (1990): 597624.
Sanson, J. P.“What He Did and What He Promised to Do.”: Huey Long and the Horizons of Louisiana Politics.” Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 47, no. 3 (2006): 261–76.
Schlesinger, Arthur M. The Politics of Upheaval: 1935-1936, The Age of Roosevelt. Geneva, IL: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003.
Schumpeter, Joseph A. Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. New York: Harper and Row, 1942.
Schwert, G. William. “Why Does Stock Market Volatility Change Over Time?Journal of Finance 44, no. 5 (1989): 1115–53.
Shoag, Daniel, and Veuger, Stan. “Uncertainty and the Geography of the Great Recession.” Journal of Monetary Economics, Forthcoming.
Summers, Larry. “Donald Trump Is a Serious Threat to American Democracy.” Washington Post Wonkblog, 1 March 2016.
Sutch, Richard, and Carter, Susan (Eds.). Historical Statistics of the United States. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
U.S. Department of the Census. “Personal Income and Personal Income Per Capita by State: 1929 to 2001.” Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2003 35(HS) (2003): 111–37.
Voth, Hans-Joachim. “Stock Price Volatility and Political Uncertainty: Evidence from the Interwar Period.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology Discussion Paper, Cambridge, MA, 2002.
Wallis, John Joseph. “Employment in the Great Depression: New Data and Hypotheses.” Explorations in Economic History 26, no. 1 (1989): 4572.
White, Richard. Kingfish: The Reign of Huey P. Long. New York: Random House, 2006.
Williams, T. Harry. Huey Long. New York: Vintage Books, 1981.
Ziebarth, Nicolas L.Identifying the Effects of Bank Failures from a Natural Experiment in Mississippi During the Great Depression.” AEJ: Macroeconomics 5, no. 1 (2013): 81101.
Ziebarth, Nicolas L.The Great Depression through the Eyes of the Census of Manufactures.” Historical Methods 48, no. 4 (2015): 185–94 .
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Mathy and Ziebarth supplementary material
Mathy and Ziebarth supplementary material 1

 Word (37 KB)
37 KB


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed