Why inflation is so unpopular

Participation, Power and Social Change Research at IDS

Naomi Hossain

Some regular focus group participants discussing the cost of living. Sabiha explained that high food prices affected her child’s health, as she struggled to afford nutritious food like milk or fruit.

Whenever I tell economists about our ‘crisis’ research findings, that people on low incomes hate and fear the current wave of inflation, they look at me blankly. ‘But..’, they explain in terms simple enough for an infant to grasp, ‘wages rise’. Having abandoned economics at undergrad I forget whether this particular tenet is a vital one, but I get that economists don’t get the unpopularity of inflation because of their confidence – as in a fact of nature – that wages rise to compensate. So why should people complain? Let alone riot? Aren’t they just silly? Why has nobody told them about the natural laws of economics?

This last week I came face-to-face with two explanations of…

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