Policy Study

Avoiding an American Lost Decade

Lessons from Japan's Bubble and Recession

The current economic uncertainty in the United States, and the government’s response to it, is eerily similar to that of Japan’s “Lost Decade” according to a new Reason Foundation report.

The study finds that Japan’s housing prices rose by 51 percent and commercial real estate values rose 80 percent between 1985 and 1991. In the U.S., commercial real estate and housing prices both skyrocketed 90 percent from 2000 to 2006.

The Nikkei, Japan’s stock index, fell from 38,975 in 1989 to just 18,934 by the end of 1999. During the continuing economic malaise, it dropped even further to 7,603 in 2003. The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 14,115 in October 2007. On February 19, 2009, the Dow closed at 7,465, its lowest finish since 2002.

President Barack Obama recently signed a $787 stimulus package that includes over $60 billion for infrastructure and transportation projects. Japan passed 10 stimulus packages in the 1990s that would equal $1.4 trillion in today’s dollars. From 1992 to 1999, Japan spent over $500 billion (in today’s dollars) on public works projects. Despite this infrastructure spending, Japan’s unemployment rate more than doubled and the economy remained stagnant.