DP5939 | Inflation as a Redistribution Shock: Effects on Aggregates and Welfare

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Episodes of unanticipated inflation reduce the real value of nominal claims and thus redistribute wealth from lenders to borrowers. In this study, we consider redistribution as a channel for aggregate and welfare effects of inflation. We model an inflation episode as an unanticipated shock to the wealth distribution in a quantitative overlapping-generations model of the U.S. economy. While the redistribution shock is zero sum, households react asymmetrically, mostly because borrowers are younger on average than lenders. As a result, inflation generates a decrease in labour supply as well as an increase in savings. Even though inflation-induced redistribution has a persistent negative effect on output, it improves the weighted welfare of domestic households.