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Household-level Deflation Inequality in Denmark during the Great Depression

Research in Economic History

ISBN: 978-1-78973-304-4, eISBN: 978-1-78973-303-7

Publication date: 26 August 2019


Empirical studies on household-level inflation inequality have so far only focused on periods with positive inflation rates. However, the major concern on the policy agenda since the most recent financial crisis has been deflation rather than inflation. This naturally raises the question regarding the effect of deflation on the distribution of real income when households spend their budget on different consumption bundles. This chapter compiles annual household-level inflation rates in Denmark from 1930 to 1935 based on microdata from the Expenditure and Saving Survey of 1931 and price data from the official Retail Price Index. The results indicate that lower-income households faced a larger decline in prices on their consumption of goods and services during the deflation years 1930–1932 than higher-income households did. The deflation thus contributed to narrowing the difference in real incomes between the top and bottom parts of the income distribution during the recession. In the years 1933–1935 with positive inflation rates, the lower-income households experienced higher inflation rates than higher-income households. Over the period 1930–1935 seen as a whole, the price development contributed slightly to reducing real income inequality. The low degree of medium-term persistence of differences in household-specific inflation rates is consistent with previous findings in various time periods from the 1960s to the 2000s without any persistent deflation events. The chapter at hand is the first empirical study of the direct distributional effects of price developments at the household level in a period with persistent deflation.




The author wishes to thank the editor and an anonymous referee for useful comments on a preliminary version of this chapter. Views and conclusions expressed in this chapter are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Danmarks Nationalbank. The author alone is responsible for any remaining errors. The research presented did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. There are no conflicts of interest to declare.


Abildgren, K. (2019), "Household-level Deflation Inequality in Denmark during the Great Depression", Research in Economic History (Research in Economic History, Vol. 35), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-24.



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