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Inflating Away the Public Debt? An Empirical Assessment

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  • Hilscher, Jens
  • Raviv, Alon
  • Reis, Ricardo

Abstract

We propose and implement a method that provides quantitative estimates of the extent to which higher-than-expected inflation can lower the real value of outstanding government debt. Looking forward, we derive a formula for the debt burden that relies on detailed information about debt maturity and claimholders, and that uses option prices to construct risk-adjusted probability distributions for inflation at different horizons. The estimates suggest that it is unlikely that inflation will lower the US fiscal burden significantly, and that the effect of higher inflation is modest for plausible counterfactuals. If instead inflation is combined with financial repression that ex post extends the maturity of the debt, then the reduction in value can be significant.

Suggested Citation

  • Hilscher, Jens & Raviv, Alon & Reis, Ricardo, 2014. "Inflating Away the Public Debt? An Empirical Assessment," CEPR Discussion Papers 10078, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:10078
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    copulas; inflation options; maturity of government debt; required reserves;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E64 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Incomes Policy; Price Policy
    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation

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