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Disinflation

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Economics

Quick! What's the difference between disinflation and deflation? If you are not sure, then no worries, that's what we're here for!

Disinflation and deflation do sound a bit alike so it's understandable to get them mixed up. It's important though to learn the difference and to have those differences in mind when reading through economic literature or taking your exams. To learn more about disinflation, how to measure it and even some causes and effects, keep reading!

Disinflation definition

Disinflation is when the inflation rate is slowed down. Basically, it's the decrease in the inflation rate. This is not to be confused with deflation, which describes an inflation rate that is negative. While inflation and deflation both refer to which direction the prices are going, disinflation is about the general rate of change in regards to the rate of inflation.

Disinflation is the slowing down of the inflation rate.

Deflation is a negative inflation rate.

Inflation is the increase of prices over a set period of time.

Difference between deflation and disinflation

It is easy to confuse disinflation and deflation as there are only a few letters difference between them. But a simple way to tell the two apart is to remember that:

deflation is a decrease in prices while disinflation is to discourage a fast pace of inflation.

Let's take a look at the graph below to get a visual representation of the difference between inflation, deflation, and disinflation.

Disinflation, Graph showing inflation and disinflation and deflation, StudySmarter Figure 1: Inflation, disinflation & deflation contrast illustration - StudySmarter

In Figure 1, inflation is represented by the rising blue line, disinflation is represented by the falling pink line, and deflation is represented by the falling green line. Since the blue line is rising, that means that inflation is equivalent to an increase in the price level. Since the pink line is falling but still above 0, that shows that disinflation is a decrease in the inflation rate. And since the green line is falling but goes below zero, that shows that deflation is negative inflation!

You can see that inflation is an increase, disinflation is a decrease, and deflation pushes the inflation rate into the negatives!

Deflation is also much more dangerous than disinflation. Deflations are usually signals of recessions or depressions. It's a time of high unemployment rates, low demand, and an increase in real debt! But if deflation means a decrease in prices and an increase in purchasing power, why wouldn't people be shopping and stimulating the economy? Unfortunately, that's due to people not having any money due to low income and difficulty finding jobs if they're jobless.

The other issue is since prices keep dropping and the value of money is increasing, people keep putting off their purchases. Since they know deflation is taking place, they are more likely to withhold spending money since they know that everything will probably be even cheaper tomorrow! This causes many issues for businesses and can even create a deflation spiral. The spiral starts with the low demand, which leads to a lower need for production, which leads to higher unemployment, and then that leads to even less demand.

Measuring disinflation

One of the most used methods to measure inflation/disinflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This measures the shifts in prices of goods/services. The change in CPI is used to determine the inflation level.

The CPI would also respectively let consumers know how much their income would need to change in order to keep their current lifestyle due to the new prices.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measurement of the shifts in prices of goods/services.

The way to calculate the CPI would be as follows:

For example, let's pretend that the below CPIs were the CPIs for the years of 2019, 2020, and 2021:

  • 2019: 105.4
  • 2020: 108.2
  • 2021: 109.9

Always using the previous year as your base year, how would you calculate the inflation for 2020 and 2021?

Since the previous year is used as the base year, the base year for 2020 would be 2019, and the base year for 2021 would be 2020

Step 1:

Substitute numbers into the equation

Step 2:

Subtract the top two numbers and divide them by the bottom number.

Step 3:

Multiply by 100 to get the percentage.

The inflation was 2.7% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Repeat the same steps to get the answer for 2021.

The inflation was 1.6% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Main causes of disinflation

Disinflation is caused by a few factors: a decrease in the supply of money or a recession.

Disinflation: A decrease in the supply of money

With inflation being caused by an increase in the supply of money, it stands to reason that disinflation is caused by a decrease in the supply of money. A reduction in the supply of money could be caused by a tighter monetary policy. This is usually the case when inflation begins to go past an acceptable range and the central bank responds with these new policies in order to try to stop/slow the effects of inflation. Their main concern at that point is hyperinflation. If the bank is successful with this plan, then disinflation should occur.

Hyperinflation is rapid and out of control inflation.

To learn more about this topic, check out our explanation - Hyperinflation

Disinflation: Recession

Sometimes, disinflation may occur due to an economic recession. The reason behind this is that if we are in a recession, a business owner wants to attract as many customers as possible in order to earn money during these difficult times. In order to do that, the business owner might keep their prices the same instead of increasing the prices as a way to attract customers. By doing so, the business owner is causing disinflation.

Effects of disinflation

Disinflation in itself is not a negative occurrence nor does it bring any harm to the economy. It's a common occurrence as far as the cycle of the economy is concerned. But as with anything in the world, there are some effects of disinflation. Some positive, some negative.

Let's say that the inflation rate has gone down from 8% to 4%. This is considered a plus for the economy. This disinflation:

  • Increases purchasing power (since prices have gone down but your salary remains the same or is higher)
  • Protects savings (since the value of money is higher now than it was when inflation was 8%)
  • Improves competitiveness of domestically produced goods (as they become relatively cheaper on an international market)
  • Decision-making uncertainty is reduced (since businesses and customers are not worried about rising prices as much anymore, confidence improves)

But on the other hand, disinflation could be problematic as well if:

  • It is caused by a drop in demand (negative growth)
  • It becomes deflation (including rising debt and falling spending)

It is argued that policymakers can significantly reduce the effects of disinflation if they state their sincere intentions to reduce inflation. It is their belief that the assumption of future inflation can be reduced by effectively communicating a disinflation policy.

Potential issues with disinflation: disinflation example

Disinflation in itself is a good thing for the economy, but it doesn't come cheap. The process of bringing the rate of inflation down is extremely difficult and this difficulty is exactly why policymakers are desperate to stop inflation from ever getting over a particular rate. Once the inflation rate gets too high, one of the only ways to get it back down to a normal rate again is to (for a short period of time) depress the economy. In order to depress the economy, the cost is usually a high rate of unemployment. As you can imagine, it is a serious issue and is not to be taken lightly.

For these reasons, policymakers try to stop inflation from getting past a certain rate in the first place. They are aware of the issues it would pose if inflation were to get too high and they had to throw the economy into a depression in order to fix it. That's why they respond the way that they do to even the hint of a higher inflation rate than is acceptable.

In the United States back in the 1980s, the inflation rate skyrocketed and then dropped back down almost as quickly as it had peaked. While this may seem like a good thing since the spike seemed to drop rather quickly, the damage was already done. Unfortunately, the peak and drop were followed by a high rate of unemployment. In fact, it was the highest rate of unemployment that had been seen since the Great Depression. This was a demonstration of the difficulties and costs that come with disinflation.

Disinflation - Key takeaways

  • Disinflation is the slowing down of the inflation rate.
  • Deflation is a negative inflation rate.
  • Deflation is much more dangerous than disinflation.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measurement of the shifts in prices of goods/services. It's used to measure changes in inflation.
  • A decrease in the supply of money or a recession are the main causes of disinflation
  • An increase in purchasing power and protection of savings are positives of disinflation.
  • If disinflation becomes deflation then it's problematic.
  • Disinflation is usually accompanied by a higher rate of unemployment.

Disinflation

Disinflation is the slowing down of the inflation rate.

No. These two are normally mixed up but disinflation is the slowing down of the inflation rate while deflation is a negative inflation rate!

During disinflation, the inflation rate goes down and purchasing power goes up!

A decrease in the money supply or a recession!

A potential issue would be a higher rate of unemployment or a possible recession/depression as policy makers work hard to bring the inflation rate back to a normal range.

Final Disinflation Quiz

Question

Define disinflation

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Answer

Disinflation is the slowing down of the inflation rate.

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Question

What is deflation?

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Answer

Deflation is a negative inflation rate.

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Question

What's a way to remember the difference between disinflation and deflation?

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Answer

Deflation is a decrease in prices while disinflation is to discourage a fast pace of inflation.

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Question

Which of the following pushes the inflation rate into the negatives?

Show answer

Answer

Deflation

Show question

Question

What happens during disinflation?

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Answer

During disinflation, the inflation rate goes down and purchasing power goes up!

Show question

Question

What are the causes of disinflation?

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Answer

A decrease in the money supply or a recession!

Show question

Question

What's a potential issue with disinflation?

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Answer

A potential issue would be a higher rate of unemployment or a possible recession/depression as policy makers work hard to bring the inflation rate back to a normal range.

Show question

Question

What's the CPI?

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Answer

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measurement of the shifts in prices of goods/services.

Show question

Question

What's the formula to calculate the CPI for a specific year?

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Answer


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Question

When would disinflation become problematic? 

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Answer

When it's caused by a drop in demand or leads to deflation.

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Question

Why is deflation more dangerous than disinflation?

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Answer

Deflations are usually signals of recessions or depressions. There are high unemployment rates, low demand, and an increase in real debt.

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Question

What's one of the only ways to bring the inflation rate down once it has gotten too high?

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Answer

Create a temporary depression 

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Question

What's usually the cost of bringing the inflation rate back down to a more acceptable rate?

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Answer

The cost is a temporary depression which causes an increase in the rate of unemployment.

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Question

Inflation and deflation are both related to the direction that the prices are going, but what is disinflation about?

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Answer

Disinflation is about the general rate of change in regards to inflation.

Show question

Question

What is hyperinflation?

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Answer

Hyperinflation is rapid and out of control inflation.

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