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Why is Inflation Skewed? A Debt and Volatility Story

  • Joshua Aizenman
  • Ricardo Hausmann

This paper studies the patterns of inflation skewness in 56 countries. Monthly data suggests that inflation is positively skewed. We investigate linkages between skewness and non-linearity, showing that concavity (convexity) will lead to negative (positive) skewness if the independent variable is symmetrically distributed. We construct a public finance model for a developing country that uses inflation tax and external borrowing as the residual means for fiscal financing. The model predicts a convex dependency of inflation on output, where inflation skewness depends positively on inflation volatility, and external debt difficulties magnify the skewness. We conclude the paper with an assessment of the patterns of inflation between 1979-1993 for the 56 countries. Overall, the patterns are consistent with the predictions of the model.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4837.

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Date of creation: Aug 1994
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4837
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  1. Alberto Alesina & Allan Drazen, 1989. "Why are Stabilizations Delayed?," NBER Working Papers 3053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Joshua Aizenman, 1990. "Soft Budget Constraints, Taxes, and the Incentive to Cooperate," NBER Working Papers 3561, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Paul R. Krugman, 1988. "Market-Based Debt-Reduction Schemes," NBER Working Papers 2587, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Claessens, Stijn, 1990. "The debt laffer curve: Some estimates," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 18(12), pages 1671-1677, December.
  5. Calvo, Guillermo A & Leiderman, Leonardo, 1992. "Optimal Inflation Tax under Precommitment: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 179-94, March.
  6. Joshua Aizenman & Nancy Marion, 1991. "Policy Uncertainty, Persistence and Growth," NBER Working Papers 3848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Andrew Berg & Jeffrey Sachs, 1988. "The Debt Crisis: Structural Explanations of Country Performance," NBER Working Papers 2607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Rodrik, Dani, 1991. "Policy uncertainty and private investment in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 229-242, October.
  9. Calvo, Guillermo A & Guidotti, Pablo E, 1992. "Optimal Maturity of Nominal Government Debt: An Infinite-Horizon Model," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 33(4), pages 895-919, November.
  10. Barro, R.J., 1989. "Economic Growth In A Cross Section Of Countries," RCER Working Papers 201, University of Rochester - Center for Economic Research (RCER).
  11. Laurence Ball & N. Gregory Mankiw, 1992. "Asymmetric Price Adjustment and Economic Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 4089, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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