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Calculating Welfare Costs of Inflation in a Search Model with Preference Heterogeneity: A Calibration Exercise

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  • Pedro de Araujo

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    (Indiana University Bloomington)

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    Abstract

    Using U.S. cross-sectional data, this paper calculates the welfare cost of a 10% inflation for different individuals and finds that the difference in cost between the poorest 10%, measured by their expenditure share on cash goods, and the richest 10% is in the order of 176%. That is, a poor person is on average willing to forgive 176% more of their total consumption in order to have inflation reduced from 10% to 0. In absolute terms this represents a cost of 2.687% of consumption for the poorest and 0.974% for the richest. I accomplish this by introducing preference heterogeneity in a monetary search model first developed by Lagos and Wright (2005), and calibrate the model to match the expenditure share on cash goods and total expenditures for each individual type using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CEX) for the second quarter of 1996. I also show that this welfare difference increases to 210% (10.522% for the poorest 10% and 3.401% for the richest 10%) whenever frictions in the use of money are imposed (holdup problem). The ability to explicitly model these frictions is the advantage of using this model. Hence, inflation in this framework, as other studies have shown, acts as a regressive consumption tax; and this regressiveness is augmented with the holdup problem.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington in its series Caepr Working Papers with number 2008-012.

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    Length: 36 pages
    Date of creation: Apr 2008
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    Handle: RePEc:inu:caeprp:2008-012

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    Keywords: Inflation; welfare; search; holdup;

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    1. Cooley, Thomas F & Hansen, Gary D, 1989. "The Inflation Tax in a Real Business Cycle Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 733-48, September.
    2. Andrés Erosa & Gustavo Ventura, 2000. "On Inflation as a Regressive Consumption Tax," UWO Department of Economics Working Papers 20001, University of Western Ontario, Department of Economics.
    3. Wu, Yangru & Zhang, Junxi, 2000. "Monopolistic competition, increasing returns to scale, and the welfare costs of inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 417-440, October.
    4. Joydeep Bhattacharya & Joseph H. Haslag & Antoine Martin, 2005. "Heterogeneity, Redistribution, And The Friedman Rule," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(2), pages 437-454, 05.
    5. Arthur B. Kennickell & Martha Starr-McCluer & Annika E. Sunden, 1997. "Family finances in the U.S.: recent evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Jan, pages 1-24.
    6. Casey B. Mulligan & Xavier Sala-i-Martin, 2000. "Extensive Margins and the Demand for Money at Low Interest Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 961-991, October.
    7. Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Wright, Randall, 1989. "On Money as a Medium of Exchange," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(4), pages 927-54, August.
    8. Brock, William A, 1974. "Money and Growth: The Case of Long Run Perfect Foresight," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 15(3), pages 750-77, October.
    9. Nash, John, 1950. "The Bargaining Problem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 18(2), pages 155-162, April.
    10. Lucas, Robert E., 1981. "Discussion of : Stanley Fischer, "towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II"," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 43-52, January.
    11. Ricardo Lagos & Randall Wright, 2002. "A unified framework for monetary theory and policy analysis," Working Paper 0211, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    12. Easterly, William & Fischer, Stanley, 2000. "Inflation and the poor," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2335, The World Bank.
    13. Fischer, Stanley, 1981. "Towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 5-41, January.
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