Having not posted in a while (sick, work, family, other personal excuses), I wanted to throw up something interesting I found playing around on the Google Books Ngram Viewer. In my now month-old last post on the End of the Great Depression, I noted that:
"The Great Depression’s image of a slumping line, like a ‘depression’ in the ground, actually wasn’t the term’s original meaning. ‘Depression’ was a piece of 1930′s political framing meant to spin the recession in a more positive light. Markets then were seen to operate by irrational mood swings that every so often devolved into ‘panics.’ Think: “Panic of 1873!” and the like. If the economy typically has panicky bouts of madness, then being only depressed was considered an improvement."
There's a lot of interesting, though statistically dubious take-aways from this graph of the search "Great Depression, Panic". Not being terribly familiar with the underlying data, I can't speak to the full methods involved or to more granular potential issues (e.g. if one of the two terms is strongly correlated to the number of books used in each year).
Nonetheless, it's super fun.
Given that the search is case-sensitive and uses full phrases, I'll assume that references to a 'Panic' are proper nouns (or the first word of a sentence) and that references to the 'Great Depression' signify the economic event of the earlier twentieth century (you know the one).
My immediate impressions of the visualization:
- As expected, references to 'Panics' was prevalent prior to the 1930's and the year 1929 saw a sudden appearance of the phrase 'Great Depression'
- 'Panic' however appears to have been more the contemporary term during the Great Depression while that grander title marked it in history. This impression shows up as a bump in the Panic line starting in 1929 and peaking around 1940, roughly when the Depression ended. Even during the event itself, the term Panic was still the label of the day.
- Interestingly, after 'Panic' plateaus for the next four decades and 'Great Depression' climbs in the discussion, the early 1980's offers another node in the data. Panic makes a comeback climb and the Great Depression sees a slighter, but still significant growth rate increase. My best explanation is a combination of the Paul Volcker inflation-fighting era, the 1979 oil 'panic' (!), and increase in discussion about economic concepts like stagflation.
- Not certain about the late dip around 2000. My impression is that the Dotcom recession may have somewhat eclipsed the 'Panic' and 'Great Depression' talk because the blame was placed clearly on an equities bubble of newfangled internet IPOs without an apparent connection to 'animal spirits' or distinct historic precedent. OR weird data.
The Google Ngram Viewer is a fun product of a paper in Science that was published about a year ago to much interest. If the concept intrigues you, I highly recommend the Slate Culture Gabfest's discussion of the tool.