Series: Working Papers. 2403.
Author: Clodomiro Ferreira, José Miguel Leiva, Galo Nuño, Álvaro Ortiz, Tomasa Rodrigo and Sirenia Vazquez.
We identify and study analytically three key channels that shape how inflation affects wealth inequality: (i) the traditional wealth (or Fisher) channel through which inflation redistributes from lenders to borrowers; (ii) an income channel through which inflation reduces the real value of sticky wages and benefits; and (iii) a relative consumption channel through which heterogeneous increases in the prices of different goods affect people differently depending on their consumption baskets. We then quantify these channels during the 2021 inflation surge in Spain using detailed, high-frequency customer-level data from one of the main commercial banks. The unexpected nature of the inflation shock and its perception as temporary in this period in particular closely fit the assumptions behind our theoretical decomposition. Results show that the wealth and income channels are an order of magnitude larger than the consumption channel. Middle-aged individuals were, in net terms, largely unaffected by inflation, while the elderly suffered the most. We find similar results when using representative surveys on households’ wealth, income, and consumption.