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Inflating Away the Public Debt? An Empirical Assessment

Hilscher, Jens; Raviv, Alon; Reis, Ricardo

We propose and implement a method that provides quantitative estimates of the extent to which higher-than-expected inflation can lower the real value of outstanding government debt. Looking forward, we derive a formula for the debt burden that relies on detailed information about debt maturity and claimholders, and that uses option prices to construct risk-adjusted probability distributions for inflation at different horizons. The estimates suggest that it is unlikely that inflation will lower the US fiscal burden significantly, and that the effect of higher inflation is modest for plausible counterfactuals. If instead inflation is combined with financial repression that ex post extends the maturity of the debt, then the reduction in value can be significant.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Economics
Publisher
Department of Economics, Columbia University
Series
Department of Economics Discussion Papers, 1415-01
Published Here
June 19, 2015
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