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Inflation and Welfare with Search and Price Dispersion


  • Liang Wang

    () (Department of Economics, University of Hawaii)


This paper studies the effect of inflation on welfare in a monetary economy with price dispersion and consumer search. When facing greater price dispersion with higher inflation, consumers search harder for lower prices, and increased search raises welfare by intensifying market competition. Producers post inefficiently high prices, and this creates a welfare loss. Both mechanisms are affected by the consumer's monetary balance. I develop a general equilibrium model with search frictions to incorporate the interrelationship of money, search, and endogenous price dispersion. Inflation aspects welfare through three channels: the real balance channel, the search channel, and the price posting channel. I calibrate the model to U.S. data and find that the welfare cost of 10% annual inflation is worth 3.23% of consumption; however, if either the real balance or the price posting channel is closed, the welfare cost significantly decreases to less than 0.15% of consumption. The price posting channel amplifies the welfare-diminishing effect of the real balance channel, and the aggregated negative effect exceeds the positive effect due to the search channel. The search cost only generates a negligible welfare loss.

Suggested Citation

  • Liang Wang, 2011. "Inflation and Welfare with Search and Price Dispersion," Working Papers 201113, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hai:wpaper:201113

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Guillaume Rocheteau & Randall Wright, 2005. "Money in Search Equilibrium, in Competitive Equilibrium, and in Competitive Search Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 175-202, January.
    2. Allen Head & Alok Kumar & Beverly Lapham, 2010. "Market Power, Price Adjustment, And Inflation," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 51(1), pages 73-98, February.
    3. Ariel Burstein & Christian Hellwig, 2008. "Welfare Costs of Inflation in a Menu Cost Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 438-443, May.
    4. Caglayan, Mustafa & Filiztekin, Alpay & Rauh, Michael T., 2008. "Inflation, price dispersion, and market structure," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(7), pages 1187-1208, October.
    5. Debelle, Guy & Lamont, Owen, 1997. "Relative Price Variability and Inflation: Evidence from U.S. Cities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 132-152, February.
    6. Allen Head & Lucy Qian Liu & Guido Menzio & Randall Wright, 2010. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion and Rigidity: A New Monetarist Approach," PIER Working Paper Archive 10-034, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania.
    7. Richard Dutu & Benoit Julien & Ian King, 2012. "On the Welfare Gains of Price Dispersion," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 44(5), pages 757-786, August.
    8. Shouyong Shi, 1997. "A Divisible Search Model of Fiat Money," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(1), pages 75-102, January.
    9. M. Angeles Caraballo & Carlos Dabus & Carlos Usabiaga, 2006. "Relative prices and inflation: new evidence from different inflationary contexts," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(16), pages 1931-1944.
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    11. Parsley, David C, 1996. "Inflation and Relative Price Variability in the Short and Long Run: New Evidence from the United States," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 28(3), pages 323-341, August.
    12. Mariano Tommasi, 1992. "Inflation and Relative Prices Evidence from Argentina," UCLA Economics Working Papers 661, UCLA Department of Economics.
    13. Allen Head & Alok Kumar, 2005. "Price Dispersion, Inflation, And Welfare," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 46(2), pages 533-572, May.
    14. Faig, Miquel & Jerez, Belen, 2005. "A theory of commerce," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 122(1), pages 60-99, May.
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    More about this item


    Inflation; Interest Rates; Money; Price Dispersion; Search; Welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation
    • E40 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - General
    • E50 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Monetary Policy, Central Banking, and the Supply of Money and Credit - - - General
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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