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Inflation, Nominal Portfolios, and Wealth Redistribution in Canada

  • Césaire Meh
  • Yaz Terajima

There is currently a policy debate on potential refinements to monetary policy regimes in countries with low and stable inflation such as the U.S. and Canada. For example, in Canada, a systematic review of the current inflation targeting framework is underway. An issue that has generally received relatively less attention in this debate is the redistributional effects of inflation. This omission is likely to be important since the welfare costs of inflation depend not only on aggregate effects but also on redistributional consequences. The goal of this paper is to contribute to this policy debate by assessing the redistributional effects of inflation in Canada that arise through the revaluation of nominal assets and liabilities.We find that the redistributional effects of inflation are sizeable even for low and moderate inflation episodes. The main winners are young middle-class households with substantial amounts of mortgage debt. Besides young households, inflation also represents a windfall gain for the government because of its long-term debt. Old households, rich households, and the middle-aged middle-class lose from inflation, largely due to their sizeable holdings of bonds and non-indexed defined benefit pension assets.

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Paper provided by Bank of Canada in its series Working Papers with number 08-19.

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Length: 56 pages
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bca:bocawp:08-19
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Web page: http://www.bank-banque-canada.ca/

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  1. Craig Burnside & Martin Eichenbaum, 2005. "Government Finance in the Wake of Currency Crises," 2005 Meeting Papers 429, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Mats Persson & Torsten Persson & Lars E. O. Svensson, 1996. "Debt, Cash Flow and Inflation Incentives: A Swedish Example," NBER Working Papers 5772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ellen R. McGrattan & Edward C. Prescott, 2005. "Taxes, Regulations, and the Value of U.S. and U.K. Corporations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(3), pages 767-796.
  4. Bach, G L & Stephenson, James B, 1974. "Inflation and the Redistribution of Wealth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 56(1), pages 1-13, February.
  5. Allan M. Maslove & J. C. R. Rowley, 1975. "Inflation and Redistribution," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 8(3), pages 399-409, August.
  6. 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.
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