High Inflation Most Hurts the Poor

(p. B2) Inflation has become central to the American zeitgeist in 2021 in a way that it hadn’t been for decades. Google searches are up. Supply chain issues feature into popular Instagram posts. The satire website The Onion warned in a recent headline that “higher prices may force Americans to eat reasonable portions on Thanksgiving.”

Even as inflation hits its highest level since 1982 and inserts itself as a topic of popular discussion, trying to understand it can be a mind-bending task.

. . .

High or unpredictable inflation that isn’t outmatched by wage gains can be especially hard to shoulder for poor people, simply because they have less wiggle room.

Poor households spend a bigger chunk of their budgets on necessities — food, housing and especially gas, which is often a contributor to bouts of high inflation — and less on discretionary expenditures. If rich households face high inflation and their wages do not keep up, they may have to cut back on vacations or dining out. A poor family may be forced to cut back on essentials, like food.

“For lower income households, price increases eat up more of their budget,” said Laura Rosner-Warburton, a senior economist at MacroPolicy Perspectives, pointing out that some research suggests that poor people may even end up paying comparatively more for the same products. That may be partly because they lack the free cash to take advantage of temporary discounts.

Around the world, poor people historically have reported greater concern around inflation, and that is also the case in the United States in the current episode.

For the full story, see:

Jeanna Smialek. “Inflation 101: Stark Facts And Nuance.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 25, 2021): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 24, 2021, and has the title “Inflation Has Arrived. Here’s What You Need to Know.”)

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