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FGV-SP 2011

James Surowiecki
People really, really hate inflation. In polls, voters regularly cite high prices, as one of their biggest concerns, even when inflation is low. A 2001 study that looked at the “macroeconomics of happiness” found that higher inflation put a severe dent in how happy people reported themselves to be. The istaste for inflation is such that a 1996 study (titled, aptly, ‘Why Do People Dislike Inflation?”), by the Yale economist Robert Shiller, found that, in countries around the world, sizable majorities said that they would prefer low inflation and high unemployment to high inflation and low unemployment, even if that meant that millions of extra people would go without work.



It often increases uncertainty, which most people are averse to, and, because it can be described as “weakening” a country’s currency, it affects morale. Shiller found that people associated rising inflation with dwindling social cohesion. There’s also a moral dimension: we connect inflation to a lack of discipline and failure to live within our means. The most striking thing about Shiller’s study was that no one surveyed mentioned any possible benefits of inflation, even though to Americans currently besieged by debts it would be a lifesaver.

According to the information in the article, Robert Shiller’s study (“Why do People Dislike Inflation?”)

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