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A run on the bank

This image is a photograph of people lining up outside of a bank in hopes of withdrawing their funds during the Great Depression.
Bank runs during the Great Depression only served to worsen the economic situation. (Credit: National Archives and Records Administration)

The risk of bank runs created instability in the banking system. Even a rumor that a bank might experience negative net worth could trigger a bank run and, in a bank run, even healthy banks could be destroyed. Because a bank loans out most of the money it receives, and because it keeps only limited reserves on hand, a bank run of any size would quickly drain any of the bank’s available cash. When the bank had no cash remaining, it only intensified the fears of remaining depositors that they could lose their money. Moreover, a bank run at one bank often triggered a chain reaction of runs on other banks. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, bank runs were typically not the original cause of a recession—but they could make a recession much worse.

Deposit insurance

To protect against bank runs, Congress has put two strategies into place: deposit insurance    and the lender of last resort. Deposit insurance is an insurance system that makes sure depositors in a bank do not lose their money, even if the bank goes bankrupt. About 70 countries around the world, including all of the major economies, have deposit insurance programs. In the United States, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is responsible for deposit insurance. Banks pay an insurance premium to the FDIC. The insurance premium is based on the bank’s level of deposits, and then adjusted according to the riskiness of a bank’s financial situation. In 2009, for example, a fairly safe bank with a high net worth might have paid 10–20 cents in insurance premiums for every $100 in bank deposits, while a risky bank with very low net worth might have paid 50–60 cents for every $100 in bank deposits.

Bank examiners from the FDIC evaluate the balance sheets of banks, looking at the value of assets and liabilities, to determine the level of riskiness. The FDIC provides deposit insurance for about 6,509 banks (as of the end of 2014). Even if a bank fails, the government guarantees that depositors will receive up to $250,000 of their money in each account, which is enough for almost all individuals, although not sufficient for many businesses. Since the United States enacted deposit insurance in the 1930s, no one has lost any of their insured deposits. Bank runs no longer happen at insured banks.

Lender of last resort

The problem with bank runs is not that insolvent banks will fail; they are, after all, bankrupt and need to be shut down. The problem is that bank runs can cause solvent banks to fail and spread to the rest of the financial system. To prevent this, the Fed stands ready to lend to banks and other financial institutions when they cannot obtain funds from anywhere else. This is known as the lender of last resort    role. For banks, the central bank acting as a lender of last resort helps to reinforce the effect of deposit insurance and to reassure bank customers that they will not lose their money.

The lender of last resort task can come up in other financial crises, as well. During the panic of the stock market crash in 1987, when the value of U.S. stocks fell by 25% in a single day, the Federal Reserve made a number of short-term emergency loans so that the financial system could keep functioning. During the recession of 2008–2009, the “quantitative easing” policies (discussed below) of the Federal Reserve can be interpreted as a willingness to make short-term credit available as needed in a time when the banking and financial system was under stress.

Key concepts and summary

A bank run occurs when there are rumors (possibly true, possibly false) that a bank is at financial risk of having negative net worth. As a result, depositors rush to the bank to withdraw their money and put it someplace safer. Even false rumors, if they cause a bank run, can force a healthy bank to lose its deposits and be forced to close. Deposit insurance guarantees bank depositors that, even if the bank has negative net worth, their deposits will be protected. In the United States, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) collects deposit insurance premiums from banks and guarantees bank deposits up to $250,000. Bank supervision involves inspecting the balance sheets of banks to make sure that they have positive net worth and that their assets are not too risky. In the United States, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) is responsible for supervising banks and inspecting savings and loans and the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) is responsible for inspecting credit unions. The FDIC and the Federal Reserve also play a role in bank supervision.

When a central bank acts as a lender of last resort, it makes short-term loans available in situations of severe financial panic or stress. The failure of a single bank can be treated like any other business failure. Yet if many banks fail, it can reduce aggregate demand in a way that can bring on or deepen a recession. The combination of deposit insurance, bank supervision, and lender of last resort policies help to prevent weaknesses in the banking system from causing recessions.


U.S. Department of the Treasury. “Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.” Accessed November 2013. http://www.occ.gov/.

National Credit Union Administration. “About NCUA.” Accessed November 2013. http://www.ncua.gov/about/Pages/default.aspx.

Questions & Answers

I need help in inflation graphs
Brandon Reply
Select inflation type, Demand pull, cost pull or anticipation 1- Select the set of data you intend on graphing i.e inflation rate of 2017, location (particular country) 2 - Select the type of measurement tool that best allows you to input the inflation data, Consumer price index is the most accurate
this is to make sure you have all the correct information, Also use should know 1- Cost pull is Aggregate Demand and Aggregate Supply AD - AS graphed 2- Demans pull is Aggregate Supply and Aggregate Demand AS - AD graphed
what is production
Imoro Reply
what is a monopolistic competition?
moniman Reply
who is barter
Tening Reply
exchange goods each other
what is economic
is the use of scares resources to satisfy our unlimited needs and wants
how many kinds of utility functions?
What is partnership?
the legal association of two or more people as co-owners of a business for profit.
Would you expect the kinked demand curve to be more extreme (like a right angle) or less extreme (like a normal demand curve) if each firm in the cartel produces a near-identical product like OPEC and petroleum? What if each firm produces a somewhat different product?
James Reply
what is supply
Mizta Reply
what is opportunity cost
The opportunity gained interms of opportunity lost is known as opportunity cost Or The second best alternative use of resources
forgone alternative: like forgoing Something our of two to buy one
what is macro economic s
Addo Reply
macroeconomics is the study of economic as a whole level.
meaning of positive science
Sumit Reply
positive science it is focused on facts and cause and effect and behavioural relationship and include developmental testing in economic theoreis.
what is inflation
Sama Reply
inflation is the general price increase of goods and services in an economy.
Inflation is the persistent rise in the general price level
inflation is characterized by increase in the general price of goods and services. when there is too much money in circulation. increase in demand of goods pursuing fewer goods. when purchasing power of money decreases .
inflation is the persistent rise general price level
inflation is the persistent increase in price
how are you
increase in the general level of price...
what is deflation
is the gradual decrease of currency exchange in a country.
why ecnomics important ? give answer plz
Because is a field of science study that reflects on our day to day activities with human behavior.
why economic is a science
Economics is referred to as a social science not a pure science. It's regarded as a social science because it makes use of the scientific method to solve problems. The scientific method refers to observation, asking questions, forming hypothesis, experimentation etc
Economics is a social science because it study human behavior how he relates with his daily activities with the available limited resources to satisfy his wants.
what are the factors affecting the demand
yeah it uses the scientific method to study human behaviour.
inflation referes to the persistant increase in the general price of goods and services over a given period of time say a year.
factors affacting Demand of good and services are 1.price of a commodity in question 2.price of related commodity 3.Income of a consumer 4.Population 5.tast and prefereance 6.Season or weather condition
what is difference between perfect and non perfect market.
what the difference between Trade off and Opportunity Cost?
In trade off, you increase the amount of something by decreasing the amount of something else. For example, you use 2 hours to study and 2 hours for leisure. if you increase study hour by 1 more hour, i.e 3 hours, leisure time will decrease by 1 hour, i.e 1 hour.
In all, you would have traded off 1 hour of leisure time for 3 hours of study time. But in opportunity cost, you let something go in order to obtain something else entirely.
thanks for your idea
different between demand and quantity demand
Farhan Reply
No difference
demand is the overall demand for it
actually theres no difference
quantity demanded is used in Equilibrium of d and s
for evrything else u use deman
the difference of it is that when demand simply denotes the willingness and a person's ability to purchase. And as against quantity demand represent the amount of an economic good or services desire by a consumer at a fixed price .☺
how to calculate inflation
Richard Reply
Explain the factors that have led to high quantity demanded
Ogwang Reply
price of the product increase of price substitute product as people shift to cheap one
what are the methods used by trade union to increase wages of their members?
Black Reply
the size of the commodity
increase demand of labour decrease supply of labour
I do support your answer Jackel.
but how do they do it?
by increasing more labour and reduced the suppliers
they can not increase labour, they increase demand of labour.
how do they increase demand for labor?
by analyzing the market equilibrium , cost reduction and cost control , savings in time .
decreasing supply of labour are achieved through training and certification that require for you to employed, you must have certificate, also trade union encouraged government to restrict migration into the country causing shortage of labour supply. Note that the aim of union is to enhance life
objective of union: better working conditions, liveable wage, protect member from unfair treatment which are done through negotiations betweens representative and management. known as collective bargaining.
what is the nature of economics?
Tyscar Reply
economics is a social science since it seeks to solve social problem of scarcity
main concerns is the decision individuals make on the allocation of scarce resources among the competing wants
in the short run firm produce a positive as long as the price is larger than what?
yoel Reply

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