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Reserve requirements: A modern perspective


  • Scott E. Hein
  • Jonathan D. Stewart


The discussion in many money and banking textbooks would suggest that the Federal Reserve requires depository institutions to hold a minimum level of non-interest-earning reserves because (1) reserve requirements are a monetary policy tool that allows the Fed to expand the money supply and lower interest rates, and (2) reserve requirements improve the safety and soundness of depository institutions. This article argues that this "conventional wisdom" view is too narrow. ; The Fed often uses reserve requirement changes, the authors contend, to achieve non-monetary-policy objectives, as it did in 1992 to improve the profitability of depository institutions and ease the credit crunch of that time. The authors also challenge the notion that higher reserve requirements necessarily lead to greater safety and lower default risk for depository institutions. ; The article examines the relationship between reserve requirement changes and monetary policy, with the aim of demonstrating the recent, limited usefulness of reserve requirements as a monetary policy tool. The article proposes a more modern view of reserve requirements as a tax on depository institutions, ponders who really bears this tax, and summarizes a large and growing literature suggesting that perceived bank profitability is inversely affected by announced changes in reserve requirement ratios. The article also provides new evidence that the 1992 reserve requirement reductions were not associated with an increase in default risk for financial institutions that issue reservable instruments, as the conventional view would suggest.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott E. Hein & Jonathan D. Stewart, 2002. "Reserve requirements: A modern perspective," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q4, pages 41-52.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedaer:y:2002:i:q4:p:41-52:n:v.87no.4

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    Cited by:

    1. Li Ma & Tsangyao Chang & Chien-Chiang Lee, 2016. "Reserve Requirement Policy, Bond Market, and Transmission Effect," Journal for Economic Forecasting, Institute for Economic Forecasting, vol. 0(2), pages 66-85, June.
    2. Zulkhibri, Muhamed & Sakti, Muhammad Rizky Prima, 2017. "Macroprudential Policy and Financing Behaviour in Dual Banking System: Bank-Level Evidence from Indonesia," Working Papers 2017-5, The Islamic Research and Teaching Institute (IRTI).
    3. Tchana Tchana, Fulbert, 2014. "The empirics of banking regulation," Emerging Markets Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(C), pages 49-76.
    4. Carrera, César, 2012. "Políticas de Encajes y Modelos Económicos," Working Papers 2012-006, Banco Central de Reserva del Perú.
    5. Fabia Aparecida de Carvalho & Cyntia F. Azevedo, 2008. "The incidence of reserve requirements in Brazil: Do bank stockholders share the burden?," Journal of Applied Economics, Universidad del CEMA, vol. 11, pages 61-90, May.
    6. Koray Alper & S. Tolga Tiryaki, 2011. "Zorunlu Karsiliklarin Para Politikasindaki Yeri," CBT Research Notes in Economics 1108, Research and Monetary Policy Department, Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey.
    7. Kyungsoo Kim, Byoung-Ki Kim, Hail Park, 2012. "Interest Rate-oriented Monetary Policy Framework and Financial Procyclicality," Korean Economic Review, Korean Economic Association, vol. 28, pages 161-188.
    8. Rocío Betancourt & Hernando Vargas, 2009. "Encajes bancarios y tasas de interés," ENSAYOS SOBRE POLÍTICA ECONÓMICA, BANCO DE LA REPÚBLICA - ESPE, vol. 27(59), pages 158-186, June.
    9. Terrance Jalbert & Jonathan Stewart & Mercedes Jalbert, 2012. "When Do Costa Rica National Banks Respond To Reserve Requirement Changes?," The International Journal of Business and Finance Research, The Institute for Business and Finance Research, vol. 6(3), pages 89-101.
    10. Xiaohui Zhang & Zhihong Ji & Yong Cui, 2009. "Reserve requirement, reserve requirement tax and money control in China: 1984–2007," Frontiers of Economics in China, Springer;Higher Education Press, vol. 4(3), pages 361-383, September.


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