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International Reserves—Too Much of a Zipf’s Thing

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  • Mariusz A. Sumlinski

Abstract

Concentrated distribution of international reserves is puzzling. I show that the growth rates of international reserves bear only a very weak relationship to their initial stocks (scaled by GDP or in absolute terms), and that, by implication, the cross-sectional distribution of reserves conforms to Zipf's law. The law states that the size of reserves is inversely related to their ranking. Evidence in favor of the law is strong and time robust. I compare the crosssection distribution of international reserves embedded in the WEO projections to that implied by Zipf's law and find that international reserves are much less concentrated in the WEO projections than implied by Zipf's law.

Suggested Citation

  • Mariusz A. Sumlinski, 2008. "International Reserves—Too Much of a Zipf’s Thing," IMF Working Papers 08/11, International Monetary Fund.
  • Handle: RePEc:imf:imfwpa:08/11
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Graham Bird & Ramkishen Rajan, 2003. "Too Much of a Good Thing? The Adequacy of International Reserves in the Aftermath of Crises," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(6), pages 873-891, June.
    2. Krugman, Paul, 1996. "Confronting the Mystery of Urban Hierarchy," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 399-418, December.
    3. Andrew K. Rose, 2005. "Cities and Countries," NBER Working Papers 11762, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ben-Bassat, Avraham & Gottlieb, Daniel, 1992. "On the Effect of Opportunity Cost on International Reserve Holdings," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(2), pages 329-332, May.
    5. Xavier Gabaix, 1999. "Zipf's Law for Cities: An Explanation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 739-767.
    6. Olivier Jeanne, 2007. "International Reserves in Emerging Market Countries: Too Much of a Good Thing?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(1), pages 1-80.
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    Cited by:

    1. Cerezo Aguirre, Sergio Cerezo Aguirre, 2010. "Consideraciones sobre el nivel óptimo de reservas internacionales para Bolivia: 2003-2009," Revista Latinoamericana de Desarrollo Economico, Instituto de Investigaciones Socio-Económicas (IISEC), Universidad Católica Boliviana, issue 14, pages 41-70.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    International reserves; Reserves; World Economic Outlook; Gibrat’s law; Zipf’s law; statistics; samples; reserve holdings; reserve accumulation;

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