, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 155-176
Date: 17 Jun 2010

Wealth inequality and credit markets: evidence from three industrialized countries

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Abstract

Economic theory predicts that changes in the distribution of wealth in an economy affect real interest rates if capital markets are imperfect. We investigate this link for the US, the UK, and Sweden, using multivariate time series analysis that explicitly allows for feedback effects between wealth inequality and real interest rates. Our estimates yield that, over the course of the twentieth century, decreases in wealth inequality led to significant declines in real interest rates. Our results therefore point to the importance of capital market imperfections that arise from moral hazard. They put to question the empirical relevance of a negative interest rate effect of inequality that may arise in variants of these models with high inequality, heterogeneous agents or adverse selection.

The views expressed herein are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the IMF, its Executive Board, or its management.