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Some Evidence on Secular Drivers of US Safe Real Rates

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  • Kurt G. Lunsford
  • Kenneth D. West

Abstract

We study long-run correlations between safe real interest rates in the United States and over 30 variables that have been hypothesized to influence real rates. The list of variables is motivated by an intertermporal IS equation, by models of aggregate savings and investment, and by reduced-form studies. We use annual data, mostly from 1890 to 2016. We find that safe real interest rates are correlated as expected with demographic measures. For example, the long-run correlation with labor force hours growth is positive, which is consistent with overlapping generations models. For another example, the long-run correlation with the proportion of 40 to 64 year-olds in the population is negative. This is consistent with standard theory where middle-aged workers are high savers who drive down real interest rates. In contrast to standard theory, we do not find productivity to be positively correlated with real rates. Most other variables have a mixed relationship with the real rate, with long-run correlations that are statistically or economically large in some samples and by some measures but not in others.

Suggested Citation

  • Kurt G. Lunsford & Kenneth D. West, 2019. "Some Evidence on Secular Drivers of US Safe Real Rates," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 11(4), pages 113-139, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejmac:v:11:y:2019:i:4:p:113-39
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/mac.20180005
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nason James M. & Smith Gregor W, 2008. "Great Moderation(s) and US Interest Rates: Unconditional Evidence," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-33, November.
    2. Lisack, Noëmie & Sajedi, Rana & Thwaites, Gregory, 2017. "Demographic trends and the real interest rate," Bank of England working papers 701, Bank of England.
    3. repec:ucp:bkecon:9780226519999 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Christopher J. Neely & David E. Rapach, 2008. "Real interest rate persistence: evidence and implications," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 609-642.
    5. Leduc, Sylvain & Rudebusch, Glenn D., 2014. "Does slower growth imply lower interest rates?," FRBSF Economic Letter, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    6. Carmen M. Reinhart & M. Belen Sbrancia1, 2015. "The liquidation of government debt," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 30(82), pages 291-333.
    7. Whitney K. Newey & Kenneth D. West, 1994. "Automatic Lag Selection in Covariance Matrix Estimation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(4), pages 631-653.
    8. Holston, Kathryn & Laubach, Thomas & Williams, John C., 2017. "Measuring the natural rate of interest: International trends and determinants," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 108(S1), pages 59-75.
    9. Laubach, Thomas & Williams, John C., 2015. "Measuring the natural rate of interest redux," Working Paper Series 2015-16, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    10. Rana Sajedi & Gregory Thwaites, 2016. "Why Are Real Interest Rates So Low? The Role of the Relative Price of Investment Goods," IMF Economic Review, Palgrave Macmillan;International Monetary Fund, vol. 64(4), pages 635-659, November.
    11. Thomas Laubach & John C. Williams, 2003. "Measuring the Natural Rate of Interest," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 1063-1070, November.
    12. Rapach, David E & Wohar, Mark E, 2005. "Regime Changes in International Real Interest Rates: Are They a Monetary Phenomenon?," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(5), pages 887-906, October.
    13. Robert Mundell, 1963. "Inflation and Real Interest," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 71, pages 280-280.
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    Cited by:

    1. Del Negro, Marco & Giannone, Domenico & Giannoni, Marc P. & Tambalotti, Andrea, 2019. "Global trends in interest rates," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 248-262.
      • Marco Del Negro & Domenico Giannone & Marc Giannoni & Andrea Tambalotti, 2018. "Global Trends in Interest Rates," NBER Chapters, in: NBER International Seminar on Macroeconomics 2018, pages 248-262, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Juselius, Mikael & Takáts, Előd, 2018. "The enduring link between demography and inflation," Research Discussion Papers 8/2018, Bank of Finland.
    3. Ko Nakayama & Shigenori Shiratsuka, 2017. "Monetary Policy: Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead Summary of the 2017 BOJ-IMES Conference Organized by the Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies of the Bank of Japan," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 35, pages 1-16, November.
    4. repec:chb:bcchsb:v26c10pp311-356 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Gabriele Fiorentini & Alessandro Galesi & Gabriel Pérez-Quirós & Enrique Sentana, 2018. "The rise and fall of the natural interest rate," Working Papers 1822, Banco de España;Working Papers Homepage.
    6. Claudio Borio & Piti Disyatat & Mikael Juselius & Phurichai Rungcharoenkitkul, 2019. "Monetary Policy in the Grip of a Pincer Movement," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Álvaro Aguirre & Markus Brunnermeier & Diego Saravia (ed.), Monetary Policy and Financial Stability: Transmission Mechanisms and Policy Implications, edition 1, volume 26, chapter 10, pages 311-356, Central Bank of Chile.
    7. Borio, Claudia & Disyatat, Piti & Juselius, Mikael & Rungcharoenkitkul, Phurichai, 2017. "Why so low for so long? A long-term view of real interest rates," Research Discussion Papers 36/2017, Bank of Finland.
    8. Claudio Borio & Piti Disyatat & Phurichai Rungcharoenkitkul, 2018. "What anchors for the natural rate of interest?," PIER Discussion Papers 98, Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research, revised Nov 2018.
    9. Brand, Claus & Bielecki, Marcin & Penalver, Adrian, 2018. "The natural rate of interest: estimates, drivers, and challenges to monetary policy JEL Classification: E52, E43," Occasional Paper Series 217, European Central Bank.
    10. repec:chb:bcchec:v:21:y:2018:i:2:p:004-044 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:arh:jrujec:v:5:y:2019:i:2:p:117-135 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • E52 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - Monetary Policy

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