FRED Publishes 100+ Years of CFS/Johns Hopkins Data on the Fed’s Balance Sheet

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED database, the premier source for free U.S. financial data, now includes data of the Federal Reserve System’s weekly balance sheet back to the Fed’s beginning in 1914. The data come from a paper and data set I compiled with five students of CFS Special Counselor Steve Hanke.

The students — Cecilia Bao, Andrew Chen, Nicholas Fries, Justin Gibson, and Emma Paine — were undergraduates who have all since graduated from Johns Hopkins University. As part of their work for Hanke’s course Research in Applied Economics, they wrote papers dividing the Fed’s history into three periods, with each paper using the corresponding data. I served as an adviser and outside reader. We then combined the data into one big data set.

Previously, some monthly balance sheet data from the Fed’s early years were digitized, along with full data from recent years. Full weekly data from the beginning, integrated with recent data, were however unavailable in any readily usable form. The students put in many hours digitizing the data, a task that any of thousands of professional economists could have done over the last 30 or even 50 years but none were enterprising enough to do.

Here is the announcement from FRED about the data set and here are the data series. For the original papers, see Chen and Gibson, Bao and Paine, Fries, and our joint paper. For the data from the joint paper, see here.