September 2021

Can the Federal Reserve Effectively Target Main Street? Evidence from the 1970s Recession

John Kandrac


Modern central bankers confront a challenge of providing economic stimulus even when the policy rate is constrained by a lower bound. This challenge has led to substantial innovation by policymakers and a proliferation of new policy tools. In this paper, I offer evidence on the efficacy of a new tool known as funding for lending, which provides banks with subsidized funding to make additional loans. I focus on a historical episode from the United States in which the Federal Reserve provided banks with steeply subsidized loans to promote the expansion of credit within their local communities. I show that the cheap funding succeeded in generating more lending by countering banks' excessive liquidity preference. The additional credit benefited the real economy. Local areas enjoyed higher rates of small business formation and more rapid employment growth. Finally, I show that the cost of the subsidy provided by the government was more than offset by the additional payroll taxes paid out of higher wages and salaries. These results suggest that funding for lending programs deserve consideration for the modern central banker's toolkit and demonstrate that certain unconventional tools can offer monetary policymakers the means to pursue more targeted objectives.

Accessible materials (.zip)

Keywords: monetary policy, funding for lending, bank lending, countercyclical policy, discount window


PDF: Full Paper

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Last Update: March 21, 2022