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How costly is sustained low inflation for the U.S. economy?

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  • James B. Bullard
  • Steven Russell

Abstract

The authors study the welfare cost of inflation in a general equilibrium life-cycle model that includes households that live for many periods, production and capital, simple monetary and financial sectors, and a fairly elaborate government sector. The government’s taxation of capital income is not indexed for inflation. They find that a plausibly calibrated version of this model has a steady state that matches a variety of facts about the postwar U.S. economy. They use the model to estimate the welfare cost of permanent, policy-induced changes in the inflation rate and find that most of the costs of inflation are direct and indirect consequences of the fact that inflation increases the effective tax rate on capital income. The cost estimates are an order of magnitude larger than other estimates in the literature.

Suggested Citation

  • James B. Bullard & Steven Russell, 2004. "How costly is sustained low inflation for the U.S. economy?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 35-68.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:y:2004:i:may:p:35-68:n:v.86no.3
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Christina D. Romer & David H. Romer, 1997. "Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number rome97-1.
    2. Andrew B. Abel & N. Gregory Mankiw & Lawrence H. Summers & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1989. "Assessing Dynamic Efficiency: Theory and Evidence," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(1), pages 1-19.
    3. Altig, David & Carlstrom, Charles T, 1991. "Inflation, Personal Taxes, and Real Output: A Dynamic Analysis," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(3), pages 547-571, August.
    4. Attanasio, Orazio P & Weber, Guglielmo, 1995. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(6), pages 1121-1157, December.
    5. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1994. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," CRSP working papers 412, Center for Research in Security Prices, Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago.
    6. Kydland, Finn E, 1991. "Inflation, Personal Taxes, and Real Output: A Dynamic Analysis," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 23(3), pages 575-579, August.
    7. Martin S. Feldstein, 1997. "The Costs and Benefits of Going from Low Inflation to Price Stability," NBER Chapters,in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 123-166 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Orazio P. Attanasio & Luigi Guiso & Tullio Jappelli, 2002. "The Demand for Money, Financial Innovation, and the Welfare Cost of Inflation: An Analysis with Household Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(2), pages 317-351, April.
    2. McAndrews, James & Roberds, William, 1999. "A General Equilibrium Analysis of Check Float," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 353-377, October.
    3. Bhattacharya, Joydeep & Haslag, Joseph & Russell, Steven, 2005. "The role of money in two alternative models: When is the Friedman rule optimal, and why?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(8), pages 1401-1433, November.
    4. William Poole, 1999. "Is inflation too low?," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jul, pages 3-10.
    5. Gavin, William T. & Kydland, Finn E. & Pakko, Michael R., 2007. "Monetary policy, taxes, and the business cycle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(6), pages 1587-1611, September.
    6. Camba-Méndez, Gonzalo & Garcí­a, Juan Angel & Rodriguez-Palenzuela, Diego, 2003. "Relevant economic issues concerning the optimal rate of inflation," Working Paper Series 278, European Central Bank.
    7. 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.
    8. Sonali Das & Rangan Gupta & Patrick Kanda & Monique Reid & Christian Tipoy & Mulatu Zerihun, 2014. "Real interest rate persistence in South Africa: evidence and implications," Economic Change and Restructuring, Springer, vol. 47(1), pages 41-62, February.
    9. Clark A. Burdick, 1997. "A transitional analysis of the welfare cost of inflation," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 97-15, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    10. James B. Bullard & Steven Russell, 1998. "Monetary steady states in a low real interest rate economy," Working Papers 1994-012, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    11. 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.
    12. Marco A. Espinosa-Vega & Steven Russell, 1997. "History and theory of the NAIRU: a critical review," Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, issue Q 2, pages 4-25.
    13. Joseph H. Haslag & Eric R. Young, 1998. "Money Creation, Reserve Requirements, and Seigniorage," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 1(3), pages 677-698, July.
    14. Michael R. Pakko, 1998. "Shoe-leather costs of inflation and policy credibility," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Nov, pages 37-50.
    15. William T. Gavin & Benjamin D. Keen, 2012. "The zero lower bound and the dual mandate," Working Papers 2012-026, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    16. Marco A. Espinosa-Vega & Steven Russell, 1998. "The long-run real effects of monetary policy: Keynesian predictions from a neoclassical model," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 98-6, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    17. Bullard, James & Russell, Steven, 1999. "An empirically plausible model of low real interest rates and unbacked government debt," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(3), pages 477-508, December.
    18. Marco A. Espinosa-Vega & Steven Russell, 2001. "Stability of steady states in a model of pleasant monetarist arithmetic," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2001-20, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    19. Donal Bredin & Stilianos Fountas, 2007. "Inflation, inflation uncertainty, and Markov regime switching heteroskedasticity: Evidence from European countries," Money Macro and Finance (MMF) Research Group Conference 2006 125, Money Macro and Finance Research Group.
    20. Apostolos Serletis & Kazem Yavari, 2005. "The welfare cost of inflation in Italy," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 165-168.
    21. Ciżkowicz, Piotr & Rzońca, Andrzej, 2010. "Inflation and corporate investment in selected OECD countries in the years 1960-2005 – an empirical analysis," MPRA Paper 29846, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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