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Forecasting Pre-World War I Inflation: The Fisher Effect and the Gold Standard

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  • Robert B. Barsky
  • J. Bradford De Long

Abstract

We examine interest and inflation rates from 1879 to 1913. Deflation prior to 1896 was followed by inflation. Average U. S. inflation was 3.1 percentage points higher in the years after 1896, yet nominal interest rates were no higher after 1896. This nonadjustment of nominal rates would be consistent with rational expectations if inflation was not forecastable, and indeed univariate tests show little sign of serial correlation. But gold production does forecast inflation. The relationship between mining and inflation was such that expected inflation should have risen 300 basis points between 1890 and 1910. We consider explanations of this failure to foresee the shift in inflation after 1896 and conclude that it is not persuasive evidence that investors ignored relevant information, but does suggest great uncertainty about the appropriate model for analyzing the economy.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert B. Barsky & J. Bradford De Long, 1991. "Forecasting Pre-World War I Inflation: The Fisher Effect and the Gold Standard," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(3), pages 815-836.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:106:y:1991:i:3:p:815-836.
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Barsky, Robert B., 1987. "The Fisher hypothesis and the forecastability and persistence of inflation," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 3-24, January.
    2. Barro, Robert J, 1979. "Money and the Price Level under the Gold Standard," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 89(353), pages 13-33, March.
    3. Barsky, Robert B & Summers, Lawrence H, 1988. "Gibson's Paradox and the Gold Standard," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(3), pages 528-550, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben & Panopoulou, Ekaterini & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2015. "Declining discount rates and the Fisher Effect: Inflated past, discounted future?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 32-49.
    2. Borio, Claudio & Filardo, Andrew J., 2004. "Looking back at the international deflation record," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 287-311, December.
    3. Luca Benati, 2005. "U.K. Monetary Regimes and Macroeconomic Stylised Facts," Computing in Economics and Finance 2005 107, Society for Computational Economics.
    4. Robert B. Barsky & J. Bradford De Long, 1993. "Why Does the Stock Market Fluctuate?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(2), pages 291-311.
    5. Binder, Carola Conces, 2016. "Estimation of historical inflation expectations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 1-31.
    6. Hanes, Christopher & Rhode, Paul W., 2013. "Harvests and Financial Crises in Gold Standard America," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 73(01), pages 201-246, March.
    7. Perez, Stephen J. & Siegler, Mark V., 2006. "Agricultural and monetary shocks before the great depression: A graph-theoretic causal investigation," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 720-736, December.
    8. Daniel Kaufmann, 2016. "Is Deflation Costly After All? Evidence from Noisy Historical Data," KOF Working papers 16-421, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
    9. Andrew Filardo & Claudio E. V. Borio, 2004. "Back to the future? Assessing the deflation record," BIS Working Papers 152, Bank for International Settlements.
    10. Kandil, Magda, 2005. "Money, interest, and prices: Some international evidence," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 129-147.
    11. Jakob B. Madsen, 2003. "The Equity Risk Premium and the Required Share Returns in a Tobin’s q Model," EPRU Working Paper Series 03-10, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    12. J. Bradford De Long, 1996. "America's Only Peacetime Inflation: The 1970s," NBER Historical Working Papers 0084, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Paul Evans & Xiaojun Wang, 2008. "A Tale of Two Effects," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 147-157, February.
    14. Kris James Mitchener & Marc D. Weidenmier, 2010. "Searching for Irving Fisher," NBER Working Papers 15670, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. J. Bradford De Long, "undated". "America's Peacetime Inflation: The 1970s," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _104, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
    16. Mitchener, Kris James & Weidenmier, Marc D, 2013. "Searching for Irving Fisher," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 133, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    17. Beckworth, David, 2007. "The postbellum deflation and its lessons for today," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 195-214, August.
    18. Muscatelli, Vito Antonio & Spinelli, Franco, 2000. "Fisher, Barro, and the Italian Interest Rate, 1845-93," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 149-169, March.
    19. Glenn D. Rudebusch & Eric T. Swanson, 2012. "The Bond Premium in a DSGE Model with Long-Run Real and Nominal Risks," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 105-143, January.
    20. Spivak, Avia & Sussman, Nathan, 2008. "Inflation Targeting as the New Golden Standard," CEPR Discussion Papers 7001, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    21. Luis Catão & George A Mackenzie, 2006. "Perspectiveson Low Global Interest Rates," IMF Working Papers 06/76, International Monetary Fund.

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