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The Nonadjustment of Nominal Interest Rates: A Study of the Fisher Effect


  • Lawrence H. Summers


This paper critically re-examines theory and evidence on the relation- ship between interest rates and inflation. It concludes that there is no evidence that interest rates respond to inflation in the way that classical or Keynesian theories suggest, For the period 1860-1940, it does not appear that inflationary expectations had any significant impact on rates of inflation in the short or long run. During the post-war period interest rates do appear to be affected by inflation. However, the effect is much smaller than any theory which recognizes tax effects would predict. Further- more, all the power in the inflation interest rate relationship comes from the 1965-1971 period. Within the 1950's or 1970's, the relationship is both statistically and substantively insignificant. Various explanations for the failure of the theoretically predicted relationship to hold are considered. The relationship between inflation and interest rates remains weak at the even low frequencies. This is taken as evidence that cyclical factors or errors in measuring inflation expectations cannot account for the failure of the results to bear out Fisher's theoretical prediction. Rather, comparison of real interest rates and stock market yields suggests that Fisher was correct in pointing to money illusion as the cause of the imperfect adjustment of interest rates to expected inflation.

Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence H. Summers, 1982. "The Nonadjustment of Nominal Interest Rates: A Study of the Fisher Effect," NBER Working Papers 0836, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0836
    Note: PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Martin Feldstein & Lawrence Summers, 1983. "Inflation, Tax Rules, and the Long-term Interest Rate," NBER Chapters,in: Inflation, Tax Rules, and Capital Formation, pages 153-185 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Tobin, James, 1969. "A General Equilibrium Approach to Monetary Theory," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 1(1), pages 15-29, February.
    3. Mishkin, Frederic S., 1981. "The real interest rate: An empirical investigation," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 151-200, January.
    4. William P. Yohe & Denis S. Karnosky, 1969. "Interest rates and price level changes, 1952-69," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue December, pages 18-38.
    5. Darby, Michael R, 1975. "The Financial and Tax Effects of Monetary Policy on Interest Rates," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(2), pages 266-276, June.
    6. Shiller, Robert J & Siegel, Jeremy J, 1977. "The Gibson Paradox and Historical Movements in Real Interest Rates," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(5), pages 891-907, October.
    7. Ibbotson, Roger G & Sinquefield, Rex A, 1976. "Stocks, Bonds, Bills, and Inflation: Year-by-Year Historical Returns (1926-1974)," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(1), pages 11-47, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herwartz, Helmut & Reimers, Hans-Eggert, 2006. "Modelling the Fisher hypothesis: World wide evidence," Economics Working Papers 2006-04, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
    2. Jens Weidmann, 1997. "New Hope for the Fisher Effect? A Re-Examination Using Threshold Cointegration," Macroeconomics 9705005, EconWPA.
    3. Daniel Levy & Hashem Dezhbakhsh, 2003. "On the typical spectral shape of an economic variable," Applied Economics Letters, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(7), pages 417-423.
    4. Assenmacher-Wesche, Katrin & Gerlach, Stefan, 2008. "Money growth, output gaps and inflation at low and high frequency: Spectral estimates for Switzerland," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 411-435, February.
    5. Hans-Werner Sinn, 1999. "Inflation and Welfare: Comment on Robert Lucas," NBER Working Papers 6979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. McCallum, Bennett T., 1984. "On low-frequency estimates of long-run relationships in macroeconomics," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 3-14, July.
    7. Faig, Miquel, 2000. "The Optimal Structure of Liquidity Provided by a Self-Financed Central Bank," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 32(4), pages 746-765, November.
    8. Huizinga, John & Mishkin, Frederic S, 1984. " Inflation and Real Interest Rates on Assets with Different Risk Characteristics," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(3), pages 699-712, July.
    9. Daniel Levy, 2000. "Investment-Saving Comovement and Capital Mobility: Evidence from Century Long U.S. Time Series," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(1), pages 100-137, January.
    10. Frederic S. Mishkin, 1988. "Understanding Real Interest Rates," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 70(5), pages 1064-1072.
    11. Noor Ghazali & Shamshubariah Ramlee, 2003. "A long memory test of the long-run Fisher effect in the G7 countries," Applied Financial Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(10), pages 763-769.
    12. Steven A. Sharpe, 1999. "Stock prices, expected returns, and inflation," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-02, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    13. Scheffel, Eric, 2008. "A Credit-Banking Explanation of the Equity Premium, Term Premium, and Risk-Free Rate Puzzles," Cardiff Economics Working Papers E2008/30, Cardiff University, Cardiff Business School, Economics Section.
    14. Luis E Arango & Luz Adriana Flórez & Angélica M Arosemena, 2005. "El Tramo Corto de la Estructura a Plazo como Predictor de Expectativas de la Actividad Económica en Colombia," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 42(125), pages 79-101.
    15. Arango, Luis Eduardo & Flórez, Luz Adriana, 2008. "Tramo corto de la curva de rendimientos, cambio de régimen inflacionario y expectativas de inflación en Colombia," El Trimestre Económico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, vol. 0(297), pages 183-210, enero-mar.
    16. Martin Feldstein & Randall Morck, 1983. "Pension Funding Decisions, Interest Rate Assumptions, and Share Prices," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 177-210 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Robert G. King & Mark W. Watson, 1997. "Testing long-run neutrality," Economic Quarterly, Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, issue Sum, pages 69-101.
    18. Gylfason, Thorvaldur & Tómasson, Helgi & Zoega, Gylfi, 2016. "Around the world with Irving Fisher," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 232-243.
    19. Barsky, Robert B, 1989. "Why Don't the Prices of Stocks and Bonds Move Together?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(5), pages 1132-1145, December.
    20. Fullerton, Don & Henderson, Yolanda Kodrzycki, 1985. "Long-run Effects of the Accelerated Cost Recovery System," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(3), pages 363-372, August.
    21. Peter C.B. Phillips, 1998. "Econometric Analysis of Fisher's Equation," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1180, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    22. Lawrence H. Summers, 1984. "The Asset Price Approach to the Analysis of Capital Income Taxation," NBER Working Papers 1356, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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