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Inflation and Welfare with Search and Price Dispersion

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  • Liang Wang

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Hawaii)

Abstract

This paper studies the effect of inflation on welfare in a monetary economy with price dispersion and consumer search. When facing greater price dispersion with higher inflation, consumers search harder for lower prices, and increased search raises welfare by intensifying market competition. Producers post inefficiently high prices, and this creates a welfare loss. Both mechanisms are affected by the consumer's monetary balance. I develop a general equilibrium model with search frictions to incorporate the interrelationship of money, search, and endogenous price dispersion. Inflation aspects welfare through three channels: the real balance channel, the search channel, and the price posting channel. I calibrate the model to U.S. data and find that the welfare cost of 10% annual inflation is worth 3.23% of consumption; however, if either the real balance or the price posting channel is closed, the welfare cost significantly decreases to less than 0.15% of consumption. The price posting channel amplifies the welfare-diminishing effect of the real balance channel, and the aggregated negative effect exceeds the positive effect due to the search channel. The search cost only generates a negligible welfare loss.

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File URL: http://www.economics.hawaii.edu/research/workingpapers/WP_11-13.pdf
File Function: First version, 2011
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 201113.

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Length: 49 pages
Date of creation: 18 Jul 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hai:wpaper:201113

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Keywords: Inflation; Interest Rates; Money; Price Dispersion; Search; Welfare;

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  1. Guillaume Rocheteau & Randall Wright, 2004. "Money in search equilibrium, in competitive equilibrium, and in competitive search equilibrium," Working Paper 0405, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
  2. Debelle, Guy & Lamont, Owen, 1997. "Relative Price Variability and Inflation: Evidence from U.S. Cities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 132-52, February.
  3. Mustafa Caglayan & Alpay Filiztekin & Michael T. Rauh, 2006. "Inflation, Price Dispersion, and Market Structure," Working Papers 2006-03, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
  4. Faig, Miquel & Jerez, Belen, 2005. "A theory of commerce," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 122(1), pages 60-99, May.
  5. Aruoba, S. Boragan & Waller, Christopher J. & Wright, Randall, 2011. "Money and capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 98-116, March.
  6. Ariel Burstein & Christian Hellwig, 2008. "Welfare Costs of Inflation in a Menu Cost Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 438-43, May.
  7. Allen Head & Alok Kumar, 2004. "Price Dispersion, Inflation and Welfare," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 122247000000000241, www.najecon.org.
  8. Richard Dutu & Benoit Julien & Ian King, 2012. "On the Welfare Gains of Price Dispersion," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44(5), pages 757-786, 08.
  9. Allen Head & Alok Kumar & Beverly Lapham, 2010. "Market Power, Price Adjustment, And Inflation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(1), pages 73-98, 02.
  10. Shouyong Shi, 1997. "A Divisible Search Model of Fiat Money," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(1), pages 75-102, January.
  11. María Ángeles Caraballo & Carlos Dabús & Carlos Usabiaga, 2004. "Relative Prices and Inflation: New Evidence from Different Inflationary Contexts," Economic Working Papers at Centro de Estudios Andaluces E2004/71, Centro de Estudios Andaluces.
  12. Allen Head & Lucy Qian Liu & Guido Menzio & Randall Wright, 2010. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion and Rigidity: A New Monetarist Approach," PIER Working Paper Archive 10-034, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
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